Gareth Southgate calls for protection of his players after abuse in Hungary | England
Gareth Southgate called on Fifa to take strong action after Hungarian fans targeted Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham with monkey chants in England’s 4-0 victory in Budapest on Thursday night.
Hungary have already been ordered to play their next three UEFA home games behind closed doors due to ‘discriminatory behavior’ by supporters at Euro 2020, with one of those games suspended for two years , and they face further penalties after racist abuse marred their World Cup Qualifier against the Southgate side.
With the game under Fifa’s jurisdiction, a hostile crowd decided to make life difficult for England in a crowded Puskas Arena. There were big boos as the England players knelt before kick-off and the mood deteriorated after Sterling put the Euro 2020 finalists in the lead after 55 minutes. Missiles were fired at players several times, a rocket was launched into the field, and the night ended with Sterling and Bellingham targeted for racial abuse.
TV cameras spotted at least one fan making a monkey gesture and Southgate, who said the people abusing his players were dinosaurs, insisted it was up to the authorities to be tough on the Hungary.
“This group of players or staff can do nothing more in the fight against racism,” said the England manager. “Other people have to take the right steps to try to move forward.
“There’s nothing more our players can do than what they’ve done over the past two or three years to try to get the right messages out, to take the right positions, and it’s up to others to protect them. It is up to me to protect them mainly, but to the authorities to protect them too.
“They should not be subjected to any form of racism. There is a balance in the crowd. As we know at home, not everyone causes problems. This evening, our anthem has really been remarkably well respected.
“It’s not fair to criticize all the Hungarian fans. A lot of them were very generous and behaved extremely well. You have to take care of the responsible people. I think there is evidence that people were filmed and we have to hope that the authorities deal with this in the right way.
England have been booed by some of their own supporters for kneeling ahead of friendlies against Romania and Austria at Riverside Stadium in June. Southgate was asked if last night’s abuse showed why his team had continued to make the anti-racist move.
“They recognize that the world is changing,” he said. “Although some people are stuck in their thinking and prejudices, they will end up being the dinosaurs. The world is modernizing. Hungary is nowhere near as diverse as our people. It took us a long time to get to where we need to go. We will continue to try to set a good example for the young people of our country.
The Football Association has asked Fifa to open an investigation. “It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions against some of our English players,” said the FA. “We will ask Fifa to investigate the matter. We continue to support the players and staff in our collective determination to highlight and fight discrimination in all its forms.
John Stones has said England will not stop fighting discrimination. “It’s so sad to think that this is happening in our games,” he said. “I hope whoever has to take care of it will. I’m sure they will. We are united as a team and we did it before the game. We will continue to fight for what we believe in as a team.
The crowd’s demeanor distracted attention from a dominant performance by England, who maintained their perfect Group I record thanks to goals from Sterling, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice. “The players were excellent,” Southgate said. “We made what was a very difficult game very comfortable at the end.”