I often try to remain as unbiased and professional as possible whenever posting these pieces, even when writing about my favorite teams/players. This won't be one of those times. Following what occurred during Tuesday's Serbia vs. England U-21 showdown, I and fans/players/managers from around the world are calling upon UEFA/FIFA, specifically FIFA President Sepp Blatter, to act.
A fine against a football association isn't going to cut it this time.
Here is a very brief rundown of what occurred on Tuesday evening in Serbia. England scored on a stoppage time counterattack to secure a 1-0 road victory. Players and coaches from both sides invaded the pitch following the match, and cameras picked up scenes that included one Serbia coach punching an England coach, and Danny Rose being surrounded and possibly even kicked by several Serbia players. Upon leaving the field, Rose, a Tottenham Hotspur defender currently on loan at Sunderland, booted the ball into the stands. He was shown what was his second yellow card/a red card for his actions.
While speaking with the press after the game, Rose claimed that he was racially abused by groups of home fans who hurled monkey chants toward the player. Serbia has denied those claims, issuing the following statement that was posted on the website for The Independent on Wednesday:
"(The) FA of Serbia absolutely refuses (sic) 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. Unfortunately, after the fourth minute of the additional time and the victory goal scored by the guest team, unpleasant scenes were seen on the pitch. 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."
The problem with the statement posted above is that there is video evidence that supports Rose's claims of racism. Monkey chants can clearly be heard in this video that was uploaded to YouTube and posted on the 101 Great Goals website on Tuesday. You can also see what may have been a stone (according to some reports) thrown at Rose as he's leaving the pitch, and Rose reacting to the chants by making "monkey gestures" before the referee escorts the player into the tunnel.
Racism has been a significant story in the football world for far too long. In the past five months alone, racist taunts were heard during Euro 2012 and during a Europa League contest involving Spurs and Lazio last month. One wouldn't have to search long to find multiple similar instances that have occurred during the past calendar year.
While "shoot first, ask questions never" was my immediate reaction upon seeing the footage referenced above, I understand that UEFA/FIFA must first investigate what occurred before handing down any punishment. Some have argued that Rose and at least one individual on the England bench were responsible for starting the altercations that took place following the final whistle. If true, than those individuals should receive the necessary fines/bans for doing so.
A charge of racism is a serious matter, one that must be looked into by the proper authorities. Assuming, based upon the different pieces of video evidence I've witnessed over the past 24 hours, that Rose's claims of racist abuse are found to be valid, it's time for UEFA and FIFA to come together and bring down the hammer. No £40k fine delivered to a football association/federation will stop fans from engaging in these antics. History has proven that statement to be true (this coming from a Juve fan). My suggested punishments include the following:
Rescind Rose's red card. No reasonable person can blame Rose for how he reacted after being racially abused by a large group of people.
Hand down a "three strikes and you're out" ban. Start by banning Serbia from hosting all international matches for a set period of time (six months to a year, for example), and add additional sanctions that would double the original punishment if any similar incidents happen again during "x" amount of time. The final strike, if that day was to come, would be to ban the Serbia National Team from all international play, perhaps for as long as 1-2 years.
I'm in favor of such serious punishments not just because of what happened in the stadium on Tuesday, but also because of the Serbia FA essentially claiming, while not even pretending to first seriously look into the matter, that Danny Rose chose to lie and cry racism merely to justify his launching the ball into the crowd following the match. Bringing down a true "ban hammer" would also send the following much-needed message to all of world football: We are finished simply stating that racism won't be tolerated. We mean it, and here's proof.
Sadly, it wouldn't shock me in the slightest if Rose ultimately receives a more significant fine/ban than any punishment handed down to Serbia or the Serbia FA. That's just the football world in which we live. "I thought those days were gone" said former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp when speaking to reporters about Tuesday's events and about racist taunts occurring at matches.
- Sports & Recreation