London (AFP) – FIFA on Friday opened a disciplinary inquiry after racist abuse was aimed at England players during their World Cup qualifier in Hungary as Prime Minister Boris Johnson labelled the incidents “completely unacceptable”.
Monkey chants were directed at Raheem Sterling and unused substitute Jude Bellingham during Thursday’s match at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, which Euro 2020 runners-up England won 4-0.
Manchester City forward Sterling scored the first goal in the convincing victory but the result was overshadowed by the abuse aimed at the visitors’ black players.
Missiles and a flare were also thrown onto the pitch by a hostile home crowd.
World governing body FIFA issued a statement which read: “Following analysis of the match reports, FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings concerning the incidents last night at the game Hungary-England.
“Once again, FIFA would like to state that our position remains firm and resolute in rejecting any form of racism and violence as well as any other form of discrimination or abuse.
“We have a very clear zero tolerance stance against such abhorrent behaviours in football.”
British leader Johnson, writing on Twitter, condemned the abuse.
“I urge @FIFAcom to take strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behaviour is eradicated from the game for good,” he tweeted.
But Hungarian football chiefs robustly defended the “vast majority” of fans and Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto warned Johnson against “hypocrisy” after the Euro 2020 final at Wembley was marred by booing and crowd trouble.
It is not the first time that Hungary has found itself under the spotlight over fan misbehaviour.
European football’s governing body UEFA in July ordered the team to play their next three games behind closed doors, with one match suspended for two years, after finding supporters guilty of discriminatory behaviour during Euro 2020.
However, the ban did not come into effect for the World Cup qualifier against England because it is a FIFA competition.
England’s players were also booed before kick-off in the Hungarian capital after they took the knee as a gesture against racism and discrimination.
England manager Gareth Southgate has had to deal with previous episodes of racist behaviour towards his team — Euro 2020 qualifiers in Montenegro and Bulgaria were tarnished by similar incidents.
And Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the victims of online racist abuse after missing penalties in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy in July.
– ‘Dinosaurs’ –
“It sounds like there has been some incidents and everybody knows what we stand for as a team and that that’s completely unacceptable,” the England boss said after the result in Hungary, which preserved his side’s perfect record in the group.
“Everything is being reported… and we have to see what happens from there.
“They (the players) recognise the world is changing. Although some people are stuck in their way of thinking and prejudices, they are going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is modernising.”
But the Hungarian Football Federation defended the bulk of the 60,000 fans in Budapest at the match, vowing to take action against those who “entered the field, threw flares and cups”.
Szijjarto, in a video statement on his Facebook page, said: “Everyone could see at the Euro 2020 final how the English fans behaved with the Italians.
“You couldn’t even hear the Italian anthem due to the English fans’ booing, not to mention the insults after the game, so hypocrisy has no place in either sport or politics.”
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