England players racially abused in Hungary


England players celebrate
England players were pelted with cups after taking the lead

England condemned as “completely unacceptable” the racist abuse directed towards their players during Thursday’s 4-0 win over Hungary in a World Cup qualifier in Budapest.

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham were both targeted.

Uefa ordered Hungary to play three home games behind closed doors after fans’ discriminatory behaviour at Euro 2020.

Charges related to racism and other discriminatory conduct.

But home supporters were allowed in to the 67,000-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest against England as this match falls under Fifa jurisdiction.

The tone was set at kick-off when England’s players were booed loudly as they took a knee to protest against racism.

Hungary’s players and their head coach Marco Rossi had asked supporters to respect England’s gesture before the match but the message went unheeded.

England players were booed before taking the knee at kick-off
“We took the knee and we knew it would get an adverse reaction but we think it’s the right thing to do,” said England manager Gareth Southgate afterwards

The first half was otherwise uneventful on and off the field – but in the second half, Sterling was pelted with paper cups and bottles when he opened the scoring for England, while a flare was thrown on to the pitch after Harry Maguire put the visitors 3-0 ahead.

England manager Gareth Southgate had ice thrown at him by fans during his post-match interview with BBC Radio 5 Live. He said: “I’ve heard reports of racism, which I hadn’t heard during the game.

“Everyone knows what we stand for as a team, and that’s completely unacceptable. It has been reported. Our head of security has spoken to the players and taken their statement. We will deal with it in the right channels.

“I believe that people have been filmed and we have to hope it’s dealt with the right way.

“The world is modernising and although some people are stuck in their ways of thinking and their prejudices, they’re going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is changing.”

England captain Harry Kane, one of the scorers in a dominant 4-0 win, said: “I’ll talk to the boys. We’ll have to report it. If it’s the case, then hopefully the authorities can come down strong.”

The Football Association said in a statement: “It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions towards some of our England players.

“We will be asking Fifa to investigate the matter. We continue to support the players and staff in our collective determination to highlight and tackle discrimination in all its forms.”

‘Grace and integrity’ in the face of racism

This is the latest example of an England qualifier being affected by racism, following two incidents during matches en route to Euro 2020.

In October 2019, the Three Lions’ game in Bulgaria was halted twice because of racist behaviour from fans. The previous March, racist chanting was directed at several England players during their match in Montenegro.

Tony Burnett, chief executive of Kick It Out, urged Fifa to investigate events in Budapest as a matter of urgency.

“Kick It Out was appalled to see the actions of some Hungary fans,” he said.

“We stand proudly in support of the England players and staff, who once again acted with strength, grace and integrity in the face of racism that has no place in our game or our society.

“This is not the first incident like this in Hungary, so we urge Fifa to investigate this matter urgently.

“Those responsible need to be held to account and steps need to be taken to ensure scenes like this are not repeated.”

Players stand together in ‘unacceptable atmosphere’

Declan Rice took a drink from a cup thrown at Raheem Sterling
Declan Rice pretended to take a drink from a cup thrown at Raheem Sterling, as did Jack Grealish

England’s players, led by Sterling and manager Southgate, have become vocal figures in the fight against racism in football in recent seasons.

And although most said afterwards they did not hear it during the game, they were quick to condemn the racism that eyewitnesses in the stadium reported to them.

Defender John Stones, who won his 50th cap in Budapest, said: “It is so sad to think that this happens at our games and I hope whoever needs to take care of it does and I’m sure they will.

“We stand together as a team and we will continue fighting for what we believe in as a team and what we believe is right.”

Writing on Twitter after the match, Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish said: “Brilliant win in an unacceptable atmosphere. Well done, though, boys.”


BBC Radio 5 Live reporter Juliette Ferrington at the Puskas Arena

There was a wall of noise as England players took a knee.

Led largely by the ultras behind the goal, the fans booed throughout that moment, even though there were calls on them from the manager, players and leaders in the country not to overstep the mark.

For all the celebrations from England’s performance, the disappointing side is that that then turned to racist chants from the ultras in the stand behind the goal that England were attacking.

I definitely heard one aimed towards Jude Bellingham, when he was warming up. Raheem Sterling was also targeted after Harry Kane’s goal.

After the full-time whistle, the ultras were jumping and the Hungarian players were in the 18-yard box applauding them.

All week the manager was telling the fans to behave themselves – we know what happened at Euro 2020 and they got sanctioned. What I don’t understand is that the players would have heard the noises and they are walking around and applauding? They spent at least five minutes taking the love and support they got from the ultras.

Not very nice scenes towards the end.

Hungary players went to applaud their fans at the end
Hungary players went to applaud their fans at the end

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