Racism row intensifies as FA mulls Serbia boycott
The English Football Association has questioned whether it will send teams to Serbia again after the violent and disgraceful scenes which marred the England Under-21 team's victory there on Tuesday night.
The governing body spoke out after a day of claim and counter-claim during which counterparts in the Balkan country took the astonishing step of attempting to blame a victim of racism, Danny Rose, and denied claims of abuse.
The FA, which has submitted a detailed report to Uefa about the ugly incidents, said that England players were bombarded with missiles and became involved in a brawl after the final whistle in Krusevac.
The FA's general secretary, Alex Horne, made clear the disgust felt by English officials: "No football team should be asked to play in any environment where racial abuse, violence and threatening behaviour is prevalent. We must question the validity of sending a team to Serbia in the future."
However, his view could not be much further apart from that of the Serbian FA. In a statement yesterday, it tried to shift the responsibility on to Rose, whose behaviour it described as "inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar". It also said it "absolutely denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium".
The Serbian FA statement added: "Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence."
Uefa, however, last night opened disciplinary proceedings against both countries. They will investigate Serbia over the alleged racist chanting during and after the match. But both England and Serbia have proceedings against them over the improper conduct of players after the game.
Rose was surrounded by opposition players after celebrating his side's victory in scenes among the ugliest involving an England team in years. He was subjected to repeated and intense monkey chants and then, bizarrely, was sent off for taking exception to them.
Players had missiles thrown at them and were bombarded after Connor Wickham's goal ensured that Stuart Pearce's team qualified for the European Championship finals.
Horne said: "We were shocked and appalled by the disgraceful events that occurred in Serbia. Our players and staff were subjected to racial abuse, violence as well as missiles being thrown at them throughout the match. What occurred is inexcusable.
"We call on Uefa to take the strongest possible action against the Serbian FA, their supporters and anyone found guilty of being involved in the numerous instances of violence and abuse. We look forward to Uefa dealing with the events as a matter of urgency. It is clear that we must defend Danny Rose, who was sent off due to the frustration of being a target of racial abuse."
Rose was furious about his treatment in Serbia and called for the nation to be banned from the European game. He said: "They started monkey-chanting straight away in the warm-up and I asked the lads if they could hear it and they said they could hear it.
"In the first half, when I went to get the ball for a throw-in, the fans were starting again with the monkey chant but the first half was nowhere near as bad as the second half. In the second half, I had two stones hit me in the head when I went to get the ball for a throw-in. Every time I touched the ball, they were doing the monkey-chanting again.
"We scored and after 90 minutes' worth of abuse I just expressed my emotions as soon as we scored. Next thing I know, all the Serbian players have all run over and surrounded me, pushing me, and a brawl broke out.
"I remember getting slapped twice and then I got ushered away and that's when I kicked the ball. I kicked the ball and the referee sent me off, so I don't understand."
Rose's father, Nigel, urged a stronger punishment than the usual fines which Uefa issues in cases of racism. "They are possibly going to get a fine and that is going to be about it.
"Something seriously needs to be done about this. They can't keep saying a £20,000 fine is acceptable, because it isn't. It is not acceptable behaviour at all, it is terrible."
Cameron said he had been "appalled" by what he had seen, with a spokesman for the Prime Minister adding that Britain expects "tough sanctions" if racism is proved to have taken place.
Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, said Serbia should be firmly punished for Tuesday's events. "The scenes at the end of the game last night were disgraceful," Robertson said yesterday. "I have written to Uefa president Michel Platini, in support of the FA, urging them to investigate immediately.
"Racism in any form is unacceptable and must be stamped out," he added. "We would expect tough sanctions from Uefa on anyone found guilty of racist abuse."
Press calls behaviour 'shameful'
The Serbian press's approach to the scenes during and after their country's defeat to England in the Under-21s play-off was to condemn the behaviour completely.
Kurir ran with the headline: "Shame on Serbia."
Blic wrote: "It's no secret that foreigners often have prejudice against Serbia, it's no secret they think we still live in the Stone Age and that we are thugs and hooligans, but how could it be different when we give the wrong image to the world?"
On the Serbian news website B92, readers were divided. "Cheering was fair until the moment Rose started to provoke the crowd with vulgar gestures and words," wrote "Goran".
Others disagreed. "There was racial abuse, there is a video on YouTube showing the sad truth," wrote "Mile", referring to footage filmed from the Serbian stand in which monkey chants can very clearly be heard.
"Steven" noted that Serbia's national team, for its part, was also victim to racism last night, during its World Cup qualifier against Macedonia.
What they said about Krusevac
"Then we scored and after 90 minutes' worth of abuse, I expressed my emotions as soon as we scored. Next thing I know, all the Serbia players were surrounding me."
Clarke Carlisle, PFA chairman
"Banning them for a start, from any tournament, would be progress."
Gordon Taylor, PFA chief executive
"Fifa and Uefa need to get tough and deduct points or disqualify teams."
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson
"We would expect tough sanctions from Uefa on anyone found guilty of racist abuse."
A spokesperson for David Cameron
"He is appalled by the scenes we have seen in Serbia and we are determined to stamp out racism internationally and at home."
"While most of the English team players celebrated the score, Danny Rose behaved in inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner towards the supporters in the stands at the stadium in Krusevac."
Uefa's action against racism
April 2012 – Porto fined £16.7k
Crowd direct monkey chants at Manchester City's Mario Balotelli.
Sept 2011 – Bulgarian FA fined £34k
Punished for fans' chants at England players during Euro 2012 qualifier.
Sept 2003 – Macedonian FA fined £16.5k
England players are abused by crowd in a Euro 2004 qualifier in Skopje.
Oct 2002 – Slovakian FA fined £18k
Fans found guilty of racist chanting at England players in Euro qualifier.