England must fight racism before accusing Russia – Southgate

London (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate believes more must be done to eradicate racism in football closer to home before criticising World Cup hosts Russia’s willingness to tackle the problem.

Southgate cited a host of racist comments left on social media targeting several black players featuring in an England under-16 side as an example that a lot more still needs to be done to confront the problem in England.

“The comments about that team were disgusting,” Southgate said in comments widely reported by the British media ahead of England’s friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday. “They’re part of our England family.”

Racism is just one of a list of concerns for the England team and fans travelling to the World Cup in June.

Political relations between London and Moscow are also frayed over the March 4 nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, which the UK is blaming on the Kremlin.

Earlier this season, Liverpool complained to UEFA after their 17-year-old striker Rhian Brewster was allegedly targeted with racist abuse by players from Spartak Moscow during a Youth League game against the Russian side.

“I don’t think we should just talk about racism in Russia. We’ve got to get our own house in order,” added Southgate.

“There are things going on in our own country that aren’t correct. We keep pointing the finger at Russia, where we are going to be guests in the next couple of months, but we haven’t resolved the issue in our own country.

“Until we do, I think we should stop firing off those things elsewhere.”

– ‘Dereliction of duty’ –

However, Southgate has come under pressure himself to appoint a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) coach to his staff for the World Cup.

Former Tottenham striker and TV pundit Garth Crooks claimed it would be a “dereliction of his duty” for Southgate not to take a BAME coach to Russia to support the black members of his squad.

The English Football Association (FA) this week revealed an ambition for a BAME coach, assistant manager or manager to work with each of its 28 national sides.

Southgate, though, insisted he will be making no additional appointments to his coaching staff.

“I appointed my coaching staff 18 months ago, so there is no additional coaching position,” he said.

“Obviously there’s been reference to how we would deal with racism but we have a department set up working across all our teams to deal with that sort of player welfare side of things.

“We’re already well down the line in terms of what we’ll do and talk about with the players before we go to Russia. That support is in place.”

Southend United manager Chris Powell was among those linked with a role in Southgate’s set-up.

And he believes a generation of black coaches have been lost due to a lack of opportunities.

“I do feel there has been a lost generation of coaches, which shouldn’t happen again,” said Powell.

“We lost some quality players, who, at the end of their careers, felt they wouldn’t get an opportunity.”

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