England’s players were subjected to racist abuse in Montenegro on Monday, as monkey chants and other racist comments were directed at several black players in the Three Lions squad.
[ MORE: UEFA charge Montenegro ]
Speaking after the game, Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi both hit out at the racist abuse of Danny Rose as Hudson-Odoi (making his full England debut at the age of 18) was also subjected to monkey chants from sections of the home fans.
“It’s unacceptable. I don’t think there should be discrimination no matter where you go, no matter what. It’s not right in football, at all,” Hudson-Odoi said after the 5-1 win for England. “We should be all playing fair, have a good game and enjoy ourselves but to hear that it’s not right and hopefully UEFA deal with it properly.”
England manager Gareth Southgate spoke passionately and eloquently on the topic, as his main aim is to protect his players and help them any way he can.
“I’m reflecting on ‘should I have done more?’ 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,” Southgate said. “It’s not something I really have… I’m just finding it a really difficult subject to broach. I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences.”
What can be done to eradicate the racist abuse England’s players, and sadly, many others, have suffered on the pitch?
Small fines and one-game stadium bans are clearly not working, as UEFA have dished them out on multiple occasions in Russia, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia in recent years. Sterling is calling for longer stadium bans to punish all fans.
“It’s now time for the people that are in charge to put a real stamp on it because you can fine someone but what’s that going to do?” Sterling said. “You’ve got to make it harder – you’ve got to punish all the fans so they can’t come to the games, you’ve got to do something that’s really going to make them think twice. Because if their team can’t play with fans it’s going to be difficult for them and make them think twice about it.”
Southgate added that education of young people in societies across the globe — he was keen to point out that English soccer must get their own house in order too — is the only way to truly halt the shocking racist abuse.
“Sanctions are only of any use if they lead to education. Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people,” Southgate added. “My kids don’t think, for one minute, about where people are born, what language they speak, what color they are. There’s an innocence about young people that is only influenced by older people. So we have to make sure the education is right for everybody, in our country the same.”
Back on the pitch, many believe that players subjected to racist abuse should simply walk off the playing field and the game should be forfeited. Stadium bans of 12 months would do plenty more damage than the current one-game bans dished out halfheartedly. Southgate is 100 percent correct.
This is not just about sanctions, it is about society and educating people. UEFA and FIFA are custodians of the game and must use their vast resources, along with national associations and clubs, to put programs in place to educate youngsters. This will not be a problem that is solved overnight in soccer or society. The future generations must know that this kind of behavior is abhorrent and the likes of Sterling is leading the calls for authorities to come down hard on anybody found guilty.
Small fines and minimal stadium bans haven’t worked. There has been some progress, but not enough. Heavier sanctions are needed. Now.
UEFA in particular have stood still for too long. We are in 2019. England’s players should not be the ones taking this sickening abuse head on.