England to report racist abuse of players in Montenegro

Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi condemned the “unacceptable” racist abuse of England players during their 5-1 win in Montenegro.

Racist chanting was directed at a number of England players, including Danny Rose, during the Euro 2020 qualifier in Podgorica.

Manager Gareth Southgate said the incidents will be reported to European football’s governing body Uefa.

“It’s unacceptable,” he added. “I heard abuse of Rose when he got booked.”

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “There’s no doubt in my mind it happened. I know what I heard. We have to make sure our players feel supported, they know the dressing room is there and we as a group of staff are there for them.

“We have to report it through the correct channels. It is clear that so many people have heard it and we have to continue to make strides in our country and trust the authorities to take the right action.”

What happened?

After only six minutes, BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Ian Dennis said he heard racist chants when Tottenham left-back Rose was in possession. BBC football correspondent Mr Ben Rory also said he heard the chanting throughout the game and spoke to pitch-side photographers who described the abuse the England players received as “disgusting”.

Sterling scored England’s fifth goal in the 81st minute and celebrated by putting his hands to his ears, a gesture he later said was a response to the racist abuse.

In injury time Rose was booked following a strong challenge on Aleksandar Boljevic, with more racist chants aimed at the 28-year-old.

It is not the first time Rose has faced this situation on international duty.

He was racially abused in Serbia in an under-21 game in 2012. Serbia’s FA was fined £65,000, with their under-21s having to play a game behind closed doors.

Sterling calls for a ‘real punishment’

Sterling called on football’s authorities to take “a proper stance” and crack down on the racist abuse.

“A couple of idiots ruined a great night and it is a real sad thing to hear,” Sterling told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It’s a real sad situation we are talking about after a great win.

“I don’t think it was just one or two people that heard it, it was the whole bench. There should be a real punishment for this, not just the two or three people who were doing it – it needs to be a collective thing.

“This place holds 15,000. The punishment should be, whatever nation it is, if your fans are chanting racist abuse then it should be the whole stadium so no-one can come and watch.

“When the ban is lifted, the fans will think twice. They all love football, they all want to come and watch their nation so it will make them think twice before doing something silly like that.”

Raheem Sterling tweeted that his goal celebration was a direct response to racist chanting from the crowd

Describing his reaction to his goal, Sterling added: “It was one of those where it was to let them know, you are going to need to tell me more than that we are black and what we resemble to affect us.

“That was the message and give them something to talk about.

“We can only bring awareness and light to the situation. It’s time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it.

“In England we have a diverse country and lots of different faces. I can only do so much; the FA can only do so much. The people in charge need to make a proper stance.”

Kick it Out, an anti-discrimination charity, said: “As we’ve argued countless times, it’s time for Uefa to take strong, decisive action – fines won’t do.

“Extended stadium bans or tournament expulsion are what’s needed.”

Should England players have gone off the pitch?

England had gone behind in Montenegro to a Marko Vesovic effort before goals from Michael Keane, Ross Barkley, who scored twice, Harry Kane and Sterling completed a comfortable win.

However, the talk after the game was dominated by the racist chanting aimed at England’s players and Southgate was asked about whether he should have taken England’s players off the pitch.

“I’m not 100% certain that that would be what the players would want,” he said.

“There would be a mix of views, in terms of when we’ve discussed the topic in the past, how the players would like it to be dealt with. And they just want to play football.

“Of course, we have the chance to have an impact, but I don’t have the answer, frankly.”

He added: “Maybe that’s something I’d have to consider in the future. I have to say, it wasn’t something that came to mind at the time.

“I would want to have a long discussion with my players before to make sure that was a course of action they felt was a) something they wanted to do, and b) thought was something that was going to make a difference.”

A Uefa delegate was at the game and Southgate believes the representative from European football’s governing body heard the racist abuse.

“I’m reflecting on should I have done more?” said Southgate. “In the end, I think I tried to protect my players as much as I possibly can.

“I’m not the authority on the subject. I’m a middle-aged white guy speaking about racism.

“I’m just finding it a really difficult subject to broach because I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences.

“If people feel I should have done more, then I can only apologise for that.”

I heard fans making monkey noises – Hudson-Odoi

Chelsea winger Hudson-Odoi, 18, who was making his first international start, told BeIn Sports: “I don’t think discrimination should be anywhere – we are equal.

“When you are hearing stuff like that from the fans, it is not right and it is unacceptable. Hopefully Uefa deal with it properly. When me and Rosey went over there, they were saying, ‘ooh aa aa’ monkey stuff and we just have to keep our heads and keep a strong mentality.

“Hopefully Rosey is OK too. We will discuss it and have a chat. He has a strong mentality and is a strong guy so hopefully everything will be good.

“It is not right at all – I was enjoying the game too. We just have to take the win and go back home.”

England’s Declan Rice, who was also making his first Three Lions start, was sitting next to Rose in the dressing room after the game and said the incidents affected everyone in the camp.

“It is clearly unacceptable and it is up to the FA and Uefa to deal with it,” said Rice. “It is not right, we came here to play a football match, we have been respectful and they need to show respect to us.

“Danny was disappointed. We talk all the time about kicking it out of the game but when is it actually going to stop? It is happening all the time and there needs to be more punished for it.

“We need to be doing more. I don’t know what else we can do, there are so many campaigns saying ‘kick it out’ but then you come to places like this and it happens again, you are back to the start.”

England’s outstanding win in Montenegro should be a cause for celebration – instead it was overshadowed by the shameful racist abuse aimed at Southgate’s players.

Those close to the pitch in Podgorica delivered grim reports of what was being suffered by players in what is unquestionably an unforgiving, hostile and unpleasant arena.

Sterling’s cupped ear response towards the Montenegro fans after scoring was revealing. It was clearly a pointed response to what he had been hearing on the terraces in this small stadium.

It brought a furious response, with more chants and an object being thrown on to the pitch which was retrieved by Hudson-Odoi.

The most audible chanting came late on when Rose was booked for a late challenge and monkey noises from the Montenegro supporters could be heard from the press box.

Danny Rose was making his 26th appearance for England

It was disgraceful, unacceptable and provided a sour backdrop and unsavoury conclusion to what should have been, when viewed in the football context, a highly satisfactory night for Southgate and England after recording back-to-back five-goal victories for the first time in more than 30 years.

Now is the time for Uefa to come up with the punishment that fits the crime, not simply heavy fines but threats of exclusion from tournaments.

This should have been solely about another outstanding England win – instead a light must also be shone on the dreadful undercurrent of racist abuse that still comes out and puts a blight on football and society.

‘Uefa must take strong and swift action’ – what other people said

Sports Minister Mims Davies: “Rightly very proud of the England players tonight – a fantastic effort and cracking result – in face of absolutely unacceptable racist abuse. Uefa must quickly investigate then take strong and swift action.”

Former England striker Ian Wright, speaking to ITV: “It will probably go to Uefa and they’ll be fined a pittance and we’ll get the same thing again here the next time or somewhere else in Europe. It’s not going to stop them.”

Former England midfielder Joe Cole, also on ITV: “We need to shine a light on it. As a nation we need to take a lead on it. It’s out of order and England players shouldn’t have to deal with it.”

Former England defender Danny Mills on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Raheem Sterling has taken a lot of stick from the crowd so why can’t he celebrate like that? One week we want players to show passion and emotion and the next we are criticising their reaction when they are getting abused all game.”