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Absurd that inevitable racist abuse of England players in Hungary was allowed to happen

Absurd that inevitable racist abuse of England players in Hungary was allowed to happen

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T

he sheer inevitability of the racist abuse hurled at England’s players here at the Puskas Arena on Thursday night made it all the more depressing.

The scenes were grimly predictable after the behaviour of elements of Hungary’s home support during Euro 2020, and Gareth Southgate’s pre-match press briefings were littered with questions about potential discrimination.

England were subjected to monkey chants in the second half of an impressive 4-0 World Cup qualifying win in Budapest, and Hungary fans also booed them taking the knee and hurled objects, including a flare, on to the pitch.

Hungary were ordered to play two UEFA matches behind closed doors, with a third such game being suspended for two years, after incidents of racism and homophobia during Euro 2020, so no one could claimed to be surprised by their fans’ behaviour.

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The hosts were bizarrely allowed a full stadium last night because the qualifier fell under the jurisdiction of FIFA, rather than UEFA. Hungary are not scheduled to serve their bans until next year’s Nations League matches.

Plainly, the situation is absurd and it was small consolation that none of England’s players appeared to hear the monkey chants during the match.

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The evidence was irrefutable, with Sky’s cameras picking up a Hungarian spectator — wearing the black shirt of the country’s official supporters club — making monkey gestures towards Sterling, who opened the scoring in another decisive display for the team.

England’s players should never have been put in this position and Hungary should never have been allowed nearly 60,000 supporters after monkey ­chanting and homophobic banners at this ground marred the Euros. A united approach from UEFA and FIFA to tackling racism is long overdue — for the reputation of the game and, more importantly, the welfare and safety of the players.

Not for the first time, the situation left the impression that the governing bodies do not care enough about tackling racism.

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“You can’t believe that two organisations can’t get together and say they are banned,” former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright told ITV last night. “The sad thing is…black players will know that they will probably get racially abused because they’re banned as it is and they are allowed back in.”

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