The seemingly perpetual battle with racism within football, somehow took a turn for the worst in the past few weeks with several instances highlighting the severity of the scenario. As England travelled Montenegro in their Euro 2020 Qualifier, several players were victims of vitriolic racist abuse from the home fans. Debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi noted that when the players celebrated one of the goals, that him and Tottenham left-back Danny Rose were subject to a chorus of monkey chants. Despite an early setback, England put in a stellar performance that is sure to instill confidence into the minds of fans and players, as a number of youth players were called upon for the match which ended 5-1. However the accomplishment was entirely marred by the actions of the home crowd. Hudson-Odoi said “When I went over there, Rosey and I heard it. They were saying monkey stuff. When you are hearing stuff like that from the fans, it’s not right … it’s unacceptable and hopefully Uefa deal with it properly.”
England boss Gareth Southgate condemned the actions of the home fans, stating in a dejected tone “It’s very sad. We had an excellent performance and have an 18-year-old [Hudson-Odoi] being interviewed after the game having to respond to what’s happened when his evening should be about the joy of his full debut. I didn’t hear during the early part, but I’m told there were things in the early part of the game as well. I certainly heard when Danny Rose was booked. It was clear to everybody. It’s unacceptable.”
To make matters worse, Southgate’s counterpart for that evening, Ljubisa Tumbakovic, claimed he had not heard any of the chants and, when pressed, insisted he did not see “the reason why I should be commenting on that.” Perhaps the most striking point of the entire matter. It seems the neglect towards defending players from racial abuse is as present as ever, despite society to seemingly be progressing.
Raheem Sterling, who scored the final goal of the evening before cupping his ears to the jeering fans, believes that the sanctions in place for those who are guilty of racism are too lenient and that more should be done in order to deter future incidents like this. It is 2019 and I think 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. Then when that ban is lifted your fans will think twice not to do anything silly like that because they all love football, they all want to be there to support their nation so it will make them think twice to do something silly like that.”
This wasn’t the only instance of complete disregard for players wellbeing, following Leonardo Bonucci’s shameful comments in relation to his teammate being the victim of racial abuse in the match between Juventus and Cagliari. The experienced central defender claimed that 19 year-old striker Moise Kean “could have done it differently” and that the blame was “50/50” between Kean and the fans. Yes, he genuinely said that. Bonucci was clearly unhappy with Kean’s celebration, staring into the eyes of the men who had abused him all game, however I think that it was incredibly apt. He showed maturity beyond his years to stand before those who aimed to hurt him and prove that despite what they say, they can’t stop him. Perhaps Bonucci should take a page of his defensive partner’s book and get educated, with Giorgio Chiellini picking up a first class degree in Business Administration.