England’s Under21 football team clinched a spot in next years Under 21 European Championships with a 1-0 win tonight over Serbia but the match ended in ugly scenes sparked off by racist abuse of the black England players by Serbian fans. UEFA has now a serious decision to make regarding disciplinary action against the Serbian footballing community who are habitual offenders in race issues.
The match itself was petering out into a 0-0 draw which was already sufficient for England to qualify when Serbia were awarded a corner in the last minute of play. The Serbian goalkeeper came up for the kick but England’s defense cleared it’s lines only for the ball to get to Conor Wickham in the Serbian half who easily scored into an empty net. Celebrating England players were then pelted with missiles and lumps of concrete thrown from the crowd, and particularly Danny Rose, was targeted with monkey chants. What followed was some of the most distasteful scenes any of us wish to see on a football field. Coaches, players and officials from the Serbian camp then chased England team members towards the tunnel and punched, kicked and head-butted anyone they could find. England’s Danny Rose was red-carded for kicking the ball into the crowd at the abusing fans and England coach Steve Wigley looked to be ferociously defending himself from Serbian players. England coach Martin Thomas appeared to be head-butted by a Serbian assistant coach and local police looked to be no where.
I feel that the real issue here is that Serbians do not see this type of behavior as being unacceptable. If you read some of the online Serbian media, they refer to more of the result of the match than the trouble afterwards. In some cases , the violence is not referred to at all. You can’t change the culture of the Serbian people but UEFA can certainly change the attitude of the Serbian FA towards their racist problems. A stiff ban from competitive football is what is needed.
The bottom line here is that something needs to be done by UEFA and FIFA as this is not the first time this has happened to Serbian teams. Back in 2011, UEFA had threatened to ban Serbian teams from Europe if these problems continued. UEFA have been slow to respond severely to racist complaints and the problem appears to be worsening due to the lack of teeth from the governing body.
There’s no doubt that an official complaint will be lodged with UEFA and we can only wait to see what the consequences are but Michel Platini needs to come down hard and fast here on the Serbian players and authorities.
This cannot continue.