“I was just so angry and I found it hard to concentrate on the game” remarked Danny Rose, the England under 21 defender. Not surprisingly either. Throughout last nights game against Serbia, from the warm-up right through to the last few messy minutes, Rose was the focus of a series a racist chants.
The abuse Rose suffered was not just verbal. Rose commented that he had stones thrown at him when he went to take a throw in.
He left the pitch last evening seeing red and hearing yet more monkey chants echo around him. The referee sent him off for unsporting behaviour after kicking the ball away seemingly ignoring the racist chants. Rose explained his actions saying, “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, pushing me. I remember getting slapped twice. I got ushered away and that’s when I kicked the ball – and then the referee sent me off”.
Inevitably, the usual suspects emerged to condemn racism in the game. David Cameron said he was “appalled” while the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson condemned the “disgraceful scenes”. Quite rightly the Football Association reported “a number” of incidents to UEFA.
To the shock of many, the Serbian Football Association today released a statement that denied any racist incident took place. This statement not only contradicts a number of accounts but also video footage where monkey chants are audible in the background. Their statement read:
“FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. 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”.
This is quite extraordinary. It is common now for establishments to use the ‘bad apples’ defence, ‘There were a few bad apples but we have a zero tolerance approach’. But this statement by the Serbian FA goes further and constitutes a blanket denial that any racist incident took place. If ever there has been a head in the sand approach to tackling a problem it is here.
This is not the first time either that English players have suffered racist abuse in Serbia. 5 years ago, Nedum Onuoha was subjected to racial abuse in an England Serbia match at the European Championships. The punishment that UEFA dished out on this occasion? A fine of £16,000.
To put this into context, Manchester City was fined £24,740 for returning to the field less that minuet late in a match against Porto. This same match resulted in a fine for Porto after Balotelli was racially abused. The fine for Porto? Just £16,700.
Whilst it is easy to attack UEFA and the Serbian FA for their inaction/action, we should also take this opportunity to climb down off our high horses and to look around at the modern game in Britain. I won’t talk more about the well publicised cases of Terry “I didn’t call you a” case or Suarez “But it’s fine in my country” case. Where to start?
The outrageous? Remember when Ron Atkinson described (live on air) Marcel Desailly as a ‘lazy fucking thick nigger’?
The continuous? The fact that for almost every season I have been a football fan there has been an example of racism. In 2009 Jason Euell was subject toracist abuse. In February 2008 the then Chelsea manager Avram Grant received anti-Semitic death threats. In 2007 a Labour party cllr was banned from matches for 3 years for racially abusing a spurs player. This sad list could go on and on.
Serbian fans were out of order last night, but don’t fool yourself – English fans/players have been equally out of order for generations. We have moved on leaps and bounds but we still have a long way to go before we can truly say we have kicked racism out of football.