By Carlo Garganese
FC Copenhagen have rejected claims of discrimination after the club banned home fans with foreign-sounding names from attending their upcoming Champions League group games.
The Danish champions were drawn in Group B alongside Real Madrid, Juventus and Galatasaray, but sent out an email on Friday informing supporters with non-Danish surnames that their tickets were being cancelled for “security reasons”.
The news has caused uproar among many fans, but Copenhagen club secretary Daniel Rommedahl insists that it was necessary in order to avoid crowd trouble and the move is by no means discriminatory.
In 2000, there were serious disturbances in the centre of Copenhagen ahead of Galatasaray's Uefa Cup final against Arsenal.
"We were fully aware that our decision would cause a reaction, but it was the best solution", said Rommedahl.
"We are fully aware that everyone will not agree, but discrimination it is not."
This reasoning has not gone down well with supporters, though.
Atila Momeni, a 24-year-old of Iranian ancestry who was born and raised in Copenhagen and regularly attends the club’s games, told Goal: “After buying tickets for all three group games, with money taken out of my bank account, I received an email telling me that for security reasons my purchase had been cancelled.
“I then discovered that many others – none of Danish descent - had experienced the same. A wish for greater security is understandable, but it is unacceptable and discriminatory that the only fans to receive this treatment were those with foreign names.
“The least that could have been done was to offer us some other tickets, but this has not been done. We feel incredibly discriminated. We often suffer racism in Denmark but I would never have thought that we would be treated this way when it came to football. This cannot be excused.
"Uefa must do something about this.”
Jens Bertel Rasmussen, a Danish sports lawyer, has criticised Copenhagen’s decision, saying: "One must not discriminate on the basis of name, sex, age or nationality. If you deny people to go to a game, though it is a private event, there must be a concrete suspicion."
Former FC Nordsjaelland player Bajram Fetai joined a chorus of criticism on social media, tweeting Uefa’s official account: “What do you think about a club not allowing a person with a non-Danish name to buy a ticket for a CL game?”
FC Copenhagen were unavailable to comment on Saturday morning.