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Gareth Southgate, Rio Ferdinand and Keir Starmer slam ‘unacceptable’ racist abuse

Gareth Southgate, Rio Ferdinand and Keir Starmer have led criticism of Hungary fans for their ‘unacceptable’ racist abuse of England’s black players at last night’s World Cup qualifier. 

Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were subjected to vile monkey chants during the game while Sterling was also pelted with plastic cups after opening the scoring.  

England boss Gareth Southgate said: ‘It’s not acceptable. We have taken our stance, took the knee, right thing, I don’t think the group of players that we’ve had could be doing anything more for that cause.’ 

The Labour Party leader tweeted: ‘Another dominant England performance and a great result. But once again, our England team are subjected to disgusting racist abuse. Completely unacceptable behaviour.

‘Strong action must be taken against Hungary to protect players and show racism has no place in football.’

Sir Keir Starmer and Rio Ferdinand were among those to condemn the vile behaviour

Sir Keir Starmer and Rio Ferdinand were among those to condemn the vile behaviour 

Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand asked European football’s governing body what action it intended to take, tweeting: ‘@UEFA, interested to see what your response/sanctions will be to the racism the @England players received in #Hungary last night. Totally unacceptable.’

Players seemed to be shielded from the abuse but the chanting was audible from the stands. England captain Harry Kane and several of his other team-mates all condemned the abuse after the game, which England won 4-0. 

‘I didn’t hear it,’ Kane told ITV after the game. ‘I’ll talk to the boys and see if they heard it. We’ll have to report it to UEFA as the rules permit and if it was the case then hopefully UEFA can come down strong.’ 

The Football Association said in a statement: ‘It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions towards some of our England players.

‘We will be asking FIFA to investigate the matter. We continue to support the players and staff in our collective determination to highlight and tackle discrimination in all its forms.’

Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett has urged FIFA to investigate the matter as a matter of urgency. ‘Kick It Out was appalled to see the actions of some Hungary fans,’ he said.

‘We stand proudly in support of the England players and staff, who once again acted with strength, grace and integrity in the face of racism that has no place in our game or our society.

‘This is not the first incident like this in Hungary, so we urge FIFA to investigate this matter urgently.

‘Those responsible need to be held to account and steps need to be taken to ensure scenes like (this) are not repeated.’  

Sterling was also pelted with cups of beer as he celebrated his second-half strike

Sterling was also pelted with cups of beer as he celebrated his second-half strike

England's Declan Rice, John Stones and Jack Grealish react after a flare is thrown on to the pitch by Hungary fans

England’s Declan Rice, John Stones and Jack Grealish react after a flare is thrown on to the pitch by Hungary fans

England’s players were also booed for taking a knee before the game. Defender John Stones insisted the squad would continue to fight for what they believe in.

‘It is so sad to think that this happens at our games and I hope UEFA and whoever needs to take care of it does and I’m sure they will,’ he said. 

‘We stand together as a team and we will continue fighting for what we believe in as a team and what we believe is right.

‘I think we definitely have the mindset of ‘let the football do the talking’ and tonight we did that.

‘We celebrated our goals as if it is the last one we will score and that is an incredible thing to have as a team and as players.

‘We live the game and are so passionate for the shirt and how we conduct ourselves on the pitch. It is our passion, let our football do the talking and that showed tonight.’

Declan Rice said: ‘We spoke about what could potentially happen, we didn’t hear nothing. It’s disgraceful, something needs to happen. They can’t keep doing stadium bans if this keeps happening when we play away in these sorts of places.’

Jack Grealish added his comments on the incident on Twitter, writing: ‘Brilliant win in a unacceptable atmosphere. Well done though boys.’   

The ugly scenes at Hungary's national stadium last night prompted a wave of criticism

The ugly scenes at Hungary’s national stadium last night prompted a wave of criticism 

The match had been place on a ‘red list’ by FIFA due to a high risk of racist and homophobic abuse following conduct by Hungary supporters during their Euro 2020 campaign this summer, which saw the team handed a three-match stadium ban by UEFA after incidents against France and Portugal.

England captain Harry Kane walking along the pitch with a flare in the background

England captain Harry Kane walking along the pitch with a flare in the background 

The third game of the ban is suspended for a probationary period of two years, with Hungary also instructed to display a banner promoting equality at future matches.

In addition, the Hungarian Football Federation was given a £85,500 fine for the number of fan infringements.

However, Hungary were able to play in front of 67,000 spectators at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest against the Three Lions because they were playing in a competition run by FIFA.

Arsenal legend and pundit Ian Wright insisted governing bodies don’t care enough to deal with the problem.

‘You can’t believe that two organisations can’t get together and ban them,’ Wright told ITV.

‘Black players will know that they’re probably going to get racially abused. As soon as Sterling gets fouled, it’s embarrassing, don’t know what to say about FIFA and UEFA, they don’t care enough, they don’t care enough.’ 

Presenter Chris Kamara also criticised Hungary’s supporters, writing on Twitter: ‘Well done England. Disgusting behaviour from a lot of the Hungarian fans in the stadium.

‘The England players to a man behaved impeccable, tremendous respect to everyone. Oh & by the way it was 4-0.’

It is not the first time England players have been racially abused in relation to an international game. The team famously threatened to walk off the pitch during a clash against Montenegro in 2019 following persistent vile chanting aimed at Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose.

And after their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all sent racist messages on social media after missing crucial spot kicks. 

Officials from the organisers had been in attendance in Budapest to film any incidents of racist abuse and to observe if supporters booed England taking the knee. Crowds had jeered Republic of Ireland players for making the anti-racism gesture in June.

That opposition was backed by the country’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who claimed there should be acceptance of Hungary’s culture and warned others not to ‘provoke’ fans by taking the knee.      


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