by William Hine
|England's Danny Rose reacts to racial abuse from Serbian fans, |
following his unjust sending off
In the aftermath of the appalling events of last Tuesday night’s U21 clash between Serbia and England, the resultant opinion and statements from those high up in the game has provided me with a lot to think about. For the few unaware of the evening’s events, many of England’s black players were subjugated to racially motivated abuse from the Serbian support. This disgusts me. I find it hard to believe that in the professional era of football such primitive behaviour is still apparent.
A close game throughout, it looked set to be a 0-0 draw when, in the closing minutes, the Serbian goalkeeper came forward in the hope of getting on the end of a corner kick. The ball was cleared quickly by the English defence, and, as the Serbian goal line was left exposed, Wickham carried the ball over to end the game 1-0 to England and carry them into the 2013 U21 World Cup. In fury, Serbian fans barraged the striker with missiles, in additions to the ‘monkey hoot’ and what was quite frankly ‘handbags’ pushing and shoving from the Serbian team.
FIFA have not, as of the time of writing, taken action, but their answer should be quite simple- Expel Serbia from the international game until the Serbian FA can prove the nation’s attitudes reflect the modern game they want to be a part of. In fact, Blatter tweeted on the 17th- ‘@SeppBlatter Saddened every time I hear about racist incidents in football’. Saddened, yes, but from someone that has the power to act this is a pointless remark. FIFA have announced an investigation will take place over the incident but, really, what is there to investigate? England won the match, it was the Serbians that reacted. As far as they should be concerned, England is eligible to play in the U21 2013 World Cup.
Disappointingly, the Serbian FA did not accept the allegations but instead denied any knowledge of the chanting taking place in a YouTube press release. Essentially a poorly edited highlights reel, the Serbian FA have footage of one targeted player, Danny Rose but the sound is not of the ‘monkey hoot’ when official highlights make this very clear that Rose was targeted because of his skin colour. This should demonstrate to FIFA that this is an unprofessional institution, unwilling to accept evidence proving the fans guilty.
Unsurprisingly, the sports press in the UK were busy condemning the act all week; even the Prime Minister has called for justice. However I can’t help but feel the British public has taken the moral standpoint role, when really they should be more concerned with reacting to the racial incidents within the Premier League of the past year. Big names such as Luis Suarez and John Terry come to mind as players who have faced sanctions that the public deem unfit for the nature of their crimes (because they are criminal offences) but the Football Association have not persevered in a more harsh (or fitting) punishment. It can be said that English attitudes to racism on the terraces have improved significantly since the low point of the 70s and 80s, but, sadly racism is something that does still exist. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger issued his thoughts in a press release this week, claiming that it is not ‘rife’ but it does, in pockets, remain. Before we begin to make judgments about others, we should first consider ourselves.
In the professional era of modern football, there is simply no place for attitudes like the ones described. It would be wrong to generalize this behaviour as representative of the entire footballing world, but, as it remains an unpleasant aspect of the world’s most popular game, it is something that should be discouraged and dealt with by governing bodies. The sport must try to separate itself from the idea that it has become a forum to air age-old prejudices by those stuck in age-old frames of mind. Enjoyment and entertainment value are why football captivates so many people, and there are many examples of the game advertising itself as a very modern experience. Crucially, for a game that encompasses so many people, football, as an entity, must respect each and every one of them, as good sportsmen do.