England manager Gareth Southgate condemned the Montenegrin racists who subjected his black players to constant abuse during an emphatic victory and promised to report it to UEFA.
A night that should have belonged to the brilliance of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Raheem Sterling was wretchedly overshadowed. The pair starred in a comprehensive win with goals by Ross Barkley (2), Michael Keane, Harry Kane and Sterling, but from early on in the Euro 2020 qualifier, it was apparent that bigots had targeted the two wingers and left back Danny Rose.
Southgate said: ‘We’ll definitely deal with it in the right way. We’ve got to make sure we support our players.’
Montenegro fans and England's Danny Rose during Euro 2020 qualifying match on Monday
England's Callum Hudson-Odoi provided an assist during England's 5-1 victory in Montenegro
Hudson-Odoi, fearless on his first England start, had a lighter thrown at him during the second half. Sterling pulled his ears in a defiant gesture to the crowd after he had scored the goal that completed the Group A rout.
Sterling later tweeted: ‘Best way to silence the haters (and yeah I mean racists)#2019 #getsomeeducation.’
The most vivid flashpoint came in injury time when Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chanting after he was booked for a foul when his frustrations boiled over. This is the second time he has been racially abused representing England, the first being in Serbia for the Under 21s in 2012.
Gareth Southgate confirmed England will report Montenegro for alleged racial abuse
Such was the venom from the Montenegro supporters who had remained in the stadium, one fan tried to climb barriers to get on the pitch but he was held back by a fellow supporter. It was clear how much it had upset England’s head coach.
Southgate said: ‘We had an excellent performance and we’ve got an 18-year-old (Hudson-Odoi) being interviewed after the game and he’s having to respond to what’s happened when his evening should be about the joy of his full debut.
‘I’m told there were things in the early part of the game as well, though I didn’t hear it then. I certainly heard it when Danny Rose was booked. It’s unacceptable.’
Southgate stated he heard racial abuse towards Danny Rose when the defender was booked
Hudson-Odoi spoke to beIN Sports about the experience and said: ‘I don’t think discrimination should be anywhere. We are equal. We have to play a fair game and enjoy the moment but when you’re hearing stuff like that from the fans it’s not right.
‘It’s unacceptable and hopefully UEFA will deal with it properly because when I went over there me and Rosey heard it; all the monkey stuff. We just have to keep our heads, keep a strong mentality and hopefully Rosey’s OK as well.’
If Southgate had total admiration for his players, the events left him visibly upset. He apologised at one point for not being able to find the right words to express himself when the reality was he provided a 15-minute press conference that was impeccable given the situation.
‘I’m sitting here trying to find the right balance of my disgust and recognising the differing views of the players in terms of their experiences of the past,’ he said. ‘My role is to support and protect my players, first and foremost. It was clear to everybody that there were comments made.
‘Reflecting on sanctions, sanctions are only of any use if they lead to education. Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people.
‘My kids don’t think, for one minute, about where people are born, what language they speak, what colour they are.
‘There’s an innocence about young people that is only influenced by older people. So we have to make sure the education is right for everybody, in our country the same.
‘I’m not sitting here just criticising what’s happened tonight. We have the same issue in our country, we’re not free of it.
Raheem Sterling responded to the taunts as he celebrated scoring England's fifth goal
‘You can sanction clubs, but that won’t stop one or two people who are of a mind-set to do what they want to do. So we have to educate young people because we have a better chance with young people, and spread that as far and wide as we possibly can.’
Sterling was disgusted by what he had heard and he told BBC Radio Five Live: ‘It is a shame really because it was a massive team performance at a difficult ground, a difficult place to come.
‘We knew how difficult it would be, we knew it would be hard at times but we stuck together as a team. But then a couple of idiots ruin a great night.
‘It is a real sad thing to hear, I didn’t hear it personally but my team-mate Danny heard it and it is a sad thing to hear. It is a shame we are talking about this to be honest with you, it is 2019.
‘There should be a real punishment for this, not just for the few people being banned. It needs to be a collective thing. This stadium holds 15,000 and I think the punishment should be that as a nation, your fans are chanting racist abuse so I think it should be the whole stadium can’t watch it.’
Callum Hudson-Odoi described the alleged racial abuse as 'unacceptable'
Former England striker Ian Wright, a pundit for ITV on Monday night, accused UEFA of not doing enough to combat racism.
Wright said: ‘They will probably go to UEFA and they’ll fine them a pittance (of an) amount as a deterrent. Nothing will happen and we will probably get the same thing here at some stage again or somewhere else in Europe because they don’t do enough to stop it.’
Sports Minister Mims Davies called for swift action from UEFA.
‘Rightly very proud of the England players tonight — a fantastic effort and cracking result — in face of absolutely unacceptable racist abuse,’ she tweeted. ‘UEFA must quickly investigate then take strong and swift action.’
Kick It Out tweeted: ‘As we’ve argued countless times, it’s time for @UEFA to take strong, decisive action — fines won’t do. Extended stadium bans or tournament expulsion are what’s needed.’