England players were targeted by racist abuse from the stands during their World Cup qualifier against Hungary in Budapest on Thursday night – after fears the game could be abandoned if it was marred by ugly scenes.
Sterling and his team-mates were also pelted with plastic cups after the Manchester City striker celebrated his opener in the second half at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium.
Raheem Sterling was subjected to racist chants from the Hungary support on Thursday night
The England striker was also pelted with cups of beer as he celebrated his second-half strike
The match had been place on a ‘red list’ by FIFA due to a high risk of racist and homophobic abuse following conduct by Hungary supporters during their Euro 2020 campaign this summer, which saw the team handed a three-match stadium ban by UEFA after incidents against France and Portugal.
The third game of the ban is suspended for a probationary period of two years, with Hungary also instructed to display a banner promoting equality at future matches.
In addition, the Hungarian Football Federation was given a £85,500 fine for the number of fan infringements.
However, Hungary were able to play in front of 67,000 spectators at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest against the Three Lions because they were playing in a competition run by FIFA.
England fans were subjected to racist abuse during their World Cup qualifier against Hungary at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest on Thursday night
England had been adamant they would take the knee before the game despite expecting a torrent of abuse from the home crowd
It is not the first time England players have been racially abused in relation to an international game. The team famously threatened to walk off the pitch during a clash against Montenegro in 2019 following persistent vile chanting aimed at Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose.
And after their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all sent racist messages on social media after missing crucial spot kicks.
Officials from the organisers had been in attendance in Budapest to film any incidents of racist abuse and to observe if supporters booed England taking the knee. Crowds had jeered Republic of Ireland players for making the anti-racism gesture in June.
That opposition was backed by the country’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who claimed there should be acceptance of Hungary’s culture and warned others not to ‘provoke’ fans by taking the knee.
England duo Jadon Sancho (L) and Marcus Rashford (R) were among the players targeted by vile messages after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final loss to Italy
Republic of Ireland players were abused when they took the knee in Hungary in June
Speaking after Hungary fans had abused Republic of Ireland players taking the knee, Orban, said: ‘If you’re a guest in a country then understand its culture and do not provoke it,’ Orban told a press conference the day after the game.
‘Do not provoke the host … We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as provocation.’
‘The fans reacted the way those who are provoked usually react to provocation. They do not always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but we have to understand their reasons … I agree with the fans.’
England were adamant they would still go ahead with taking the knee – just as they had done throughout Euro 2020 – despite expecting a barrage of abuse.
Central midfielder, Kalvin Phillips, told journalists the players will ‘carry on taking the knee because it’s important for us, important for our country and to fight racial abuse’.
The Fare Network, which campaigns against discrimination in European football, feared the game could be called off if there were repeats of incidents that have marred Hungary’s recent home games – with FIFA having a three-step protocol before scrapping the contest.
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban defended fans who booed the knee and warned others not to ‘provoke’ them by making the anti-racism gesture
England boss Gareth Southgate has been steadfast in stance against racism and his belief that the team should continue to make a stand
‘Everyone from Ronaldo and French players were abused [during Euro 2020 matches in Budapest], homophobically and there was monkey chanting at French players and all of that led to UEFA banning [fans] for three matches,’ said Piara Powar, the chief executive of the Fare Network, which is appointed by FIFA to monitor fan behaviour at matches.
‘There is a foreboding mix of politics and a very diverse England team who are very keen to put their views front and centre. They are very clear that they stand for positive and inclusive values and the taking of the knee is part of theat.
‘If there is the type of racism we saw during the Euro’s the chances are the game could be stopped. Absolutely.’
England boss Gareth Southgate said his players were ‘prepared’ for the possibility of racist abuse at the game, but pointed out that there had been incidents of verbal attacks on home soil too.
‘We always prepare the team for everything really,’ England manager Gareth Southgate said today. ‘We’ve done that this week. We know that we’ve had our own issues at home so we’re not focusing on other countries.’
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