17 October 2012

Don't shut them out, KICK THEM OUT!

Danny Rose sees red after getting sickening taunts from Serbian supporters.

The vitriolic abuse that some of England Under-21s' players received in Serbia last night shows that some people just will not learn.

We should have been talking about a wonderful night in Krusevac for the young Lions, who scored an injury-time winner through Connor Wickham to go through to the final stages of the European Under-21 Championship, which will take place in Israel next summer.

Instead, we're talking about what happened moments later. England defender Danny Rose - who had been abused by parts of the home support during the match - celebrated in front of the Serbia fans, and all hell broke loose. There was a mass brawl involving players and coaches from both teams, and some fans got into the action as well, invading the pitch.

After the anger died down a bit, a disgusted Rose kicked the ball away, and was given a straight red card by the referee. As he walked off to a chorus of sickening chants from some of the Serbian supporters, the Sunderland left-back made a clear indication that he had been the subject of monkey chants.

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman added in an interview with Sky Sports News that he was pelted with stones while taking a throw-in.

Rose's reaction to what happened in Krusevac wasn't the most professional, but it was easy to understand his frustrations. This is the year 2012, and still, black footballers are subjected to the most abhorrent abuse in certain parts of Europe, particularly eastern Europe, and even more specifically, Serbia.

In the 2007 European Under-21s finals in Holland, the abuse that England defender Nedum Onuoha got from Serbian fans was so loud and widespread that the stadium announcer appealed for them to stop. Justin Hoyte was allegedly given similar treatment after the final whistle. UEFA's punishment for the Serbian FA was a pitiful fine of £16,000.

Three other black Britons - the Wales trio of Nathan Blake, Rob Earnshaw and Danny Gabbidon - were abused four years earlier when they played Serbia & Montenegro. Back then, UEFA fined the Serbs just £11,000.

And although a major incident against Italy in October 2010 was not racially motivated, Serbian ultras did force the abandonment of a Euro 2012 qualifier by smashing their way through a safety barrier and hurling missiles and flares onto the pitch. They were forced to play one match behind close doors, banned from sending supporters to three games, and fined £107,000.

This time, though, a real message needs to be sent out to tell the brutes once and for all that racism is completely unacceptable.

Paul Ince, who watched the match as an ESPN pundit, and whose son Tom was in the England team, demanded, "If it was (up to) me, they would be kicked out for the next five tournaments. This takes us back to the dark ages."

Ince's demands for a ban for Serbia from international football were echoed by PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle, who was also on ESPN's punditry team, Rose himself, and Kick It Out campaign chairman Lord Herman Ouseley.

I am in the same camp. At the very least, Serbia should be barred from competing in the qualifiers for the next European Under-21 Championship for Czech Republic 2015.

What's even more astonishing though than the Serbs' sickening treatment of black footballers is their refusal to acknowledge their wrongdoing. Although technical director Savo Milosevic apologised in person following the brawl, head coach Aleksander Jankovic said, "Apologise for what? It takes two to have a fight. You should be happy that England qualified. We can discuss that (incident) tomorrow and analyse what happened. Let's talk about football."

Within the last couple of hours, the Serbian FA have come out with this incredible statement: "The FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Krusevac.

"Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.

"And while most of the English team players celebrated the score, their player number three, Danny Rose, behaved in inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner towards the supporters on the stands at the stadium in Krusevac, and for that he was shown a red card."

Michel Platini has done precious little right during his tenure as president of UEFA, but it's about time he changed that. He must tell Belgrade that enough is enough, because Serbia's racists don't just deserve to be shut out, they should be kicked out, and expelled from international competition.

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