U.K. urges UEFA to sanction Serbia over racist abuse hurled at players
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a media conference after an EU Summit in Brussels, Friday, March 2, 2012. (AP / Yves Logghe)
Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 9:49AM EDT
NYON, Switzerland -- The British government wrote to UEFA President Michel Platini on Wednesday demanding "tough sanctions" against Serbia following the racial abuse of England players by fans during an ill-tempered under-21 match.
England players were targeted with racial abuse throughout Tuesday's game in the Serbian city of Krusevac, with monkey chants heard in the stadium.
After England's 1-0 victory, which secured qualification for the 2013 European Under-21 Championship, scuffles broke out between fans, players and coaching staff.
Serbian football fans have caused trouble at home and abroad in the past, and the country was warned by Platini last year that ongoing crowd trouble at matches is risking its teams being banned from European competitions.
The English FA, which took extra security to Serbia, reported a "number of incidents of racism" to UEFA immediately after the match. That was followed by sports minister Hugh Robertson writing to Platini on Wednesday decrying the "extreme provocation and racism" players faced and demanding an investigation.
Downing Street said that British Prime Minister David Cameron was "appalled by the scenes" and wants UEFA to impose "tough sanctions" against Serbia's football body.
"We are determined to stamp out racism overseas and at home and we are giving full backing to the FA's complaint," said Cameron's spokesman, Steve Field. "If we are going to stamp out racism from football then it is no good handing out derisory fines as has happened in the past."
In a reference to a much-criticized suggestion by FIFA President Sepp Blatter last year, Field said: "It is no good telling players to shake hands and forget about it."
But the Serbian FA denied in a statement that "before or during the match" there were any racial abuses targeting England players.
It laid the blame for the incidents after the final whistle squarely on England defender Danny Rose, claiming he "who behaved in inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner towards the supporters for which he was shown a red card."
"Unfortunately, that led to the incident that followed," the Serbian FA statement said.
But Serbia did promise to punish the culprits and apologized "to our English guests and the entire football public over the unsporting behaviour of a part of our staff and players."
Rose complained on Wednesday that trouble had been brewing throughout the evening.
He was sent off after the final whistle following apparent provocation, gesturing to the crowd that he was racially abused.
"The monkey chanting started long before I got sent off," Rose told British broadcaster Sky Sports. "After 60 minutes my head wasn't really on the game. They have to be banned. I don't understand how else they can learn from it. They have to be banned."
Rose said he complained to assistant coach Steve Wigley about problems when the team went out to warm-up before the game.
"They started the monkey chanting straight away. I asked the lads if they could hear it and they said they could hear it," Rose said. "Halfway through the warm-up I went to 'Wigs,' the assistant manager, and told him what was happening. He said I had to try my best to get through it and they would deal with it straight away after the game.
"In the first half I went down to get the ball for a throw-in and the fans started again with the monkey chants, but the first half was nowhere near as bad as the second half. In the second half I had two stones hit me on the head when I went to get the ball for a throw-in. Every time I touched the ball there was monkey chanting again."
But Serbia captain Slobodan Medojevic accused the English players of triggering the incident at the end of the game.
"I was at the opposite side of the pitch at the end of the match," Medojevic said. "My teammates told me they were provoked by the gestures of the English players toward our fans at the stadium. I don't think it's only our fault for the incidents, but also of the English players."
Medojevic also claimed not to hear any monkey chants during the game.
"Even if there were such chants, they could have been made by maximum five or six people," he said. "Even before they came to Serbia, the English insisted on the stories that they will be greeted badly by our fans."
In 2007, UEFA fined Serbia C24,000 (then $32,600) after its players and fans hurled racist abuse during another under-21 game against England.