LONDON (AP) European soccer’s governing body charged Montenegro over the racist abuse of England players by its fans during a European Championship qualifier.
England players Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose reported hearing monkey chants during their team’s 5-1 victory in Podgorica which was attended by UEFA’s anti-discrimination monitors on Monday because there was judged to be a “high risk” of racism.
UEFA announced the disciplinary case against Montenegro’s soccer association on Tuesday and said the case would be heard on May 16 by its disciplinary body. Montenegro was also charged over crowd disturbances, the setting off of fireworks, objects being thrown, and stairways being blocked.
Evidence from the Fare network will feed into the case which could lead to a partial or full stadium closure for the team’s next Euro 2020 qualifier in June against Kosovo.
“We had an observer present who picked up evidence of racial abuse,” Fare said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our monitoring team have been compiling the evidence we have before presenting it to UEFA.
“We commend the reaction of the England players involved, no human being should have to face abuse and vilification for their race or identity, something that many Montenegrins will understand from the divisive and bloody recent history of the Balkans.”
In one unsavory incident, England winger Raheem Sterling cupped his ears after scoring England’s fifth goal and Montenegro fans responded with jeers before an object – reportedly a lighter – was thrown onto the field. It was picked up by Hudson-Odoi.
Montenegro coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic said he did not hear any of the racism but Hudson-Odoi, in a post-match interview, mimicked the monkey chants he and Rose heard.
“We hope that UEFA will act decisively, the sanctions that could be applied for an offense of this kind range from a partial stadium closure to full stadium closure,” Fare said in a statement. “These sanctions are being applied regularly for offenses in UEFA competitions, often against resistance from supporter groups and football stakeholders.
“The challenge of tackling racism and other forms of discrimination in European football however remains an ongoing issue. The societal change and education that is the ultimate solution is slow to take place. Even in the countries of Western Europe where there has been investment and focus on these issues, discrimination remains a stain on football.”
UEFA officials are due in London next weekend for a conference promoting the governing body’s `Equal Game’ initiative.