England to report racist abuse towards Danny Rose and team-mates in Montenegro, says Gareth Southgate

After the match a clearly distraught England manager said he clearly heard racist chants directed at his left-back Danny Rose and called for ‘education’ as well as sanctions

Miguel Delaney
Monday 25 March 2019 23:00 GMT
Montenegro v England match preview

A devastated Gareth Southgate described England’s trip to Montenegro as a “sad evening” and “unacceptable situation” after racial abuse soured a supreme 5-1 win, and he confirmed the Football Association will report the issue to Uefa. The manager questioned whether sanctions would make any difference “without education”, and said that he didn’t want to take the players off the pitch, because that was not their wishes.

Racist chanting could be heard behind the Montenegrin goal in the second half, that Raheem Sterling called attention to when he celebrated his goal by cupping his ears. Callum Hudson-Odoi also condemned it after the game.

Southgate lamented that a mere teenager had to be asked about this on what should have been a great night for him, and seemed so affected by the events that he even questioned whether he could have done more. In truth, the national team manager spoke excellently and intelligently on the subject, and even repeatedly referenced how it is a problem in England, too.

“Firstly, very sad,” Southgate said. “We had an excellent performance and we’ve got an 18-year-old being interviewed after the game and he’s having to respond to what’s happened when his evening should be about the joy of his full debut. I didn’t hear during the early part, but I’m told there were things in the early part of the game as well. I certainly heard when Danny Rose was booked. It’s unacceptable. I’ve spoken to our players individually. We’ve got to support them. We will report it. That reporting is already in place because so many people in other areas of the ground heard it. I believe the Uefa delegate also heard it. Our part will be to make sure that process is followed, but the players in the dressing room know that as a group of staff and organisation, we’re there for them. That’s the most important thing.”

Southgate did praise the response of his players to the problem, particularly those who have been through it before like Sterling and Rose. He mentioned he went to both of them after the game.

“I have spoken with both of them. I can’t answer for them in terms of why they swapped shirts, or what the messages they were or weren’t trying to send. I just think it’s a really sad evening.

Asked whether he should have taken the players off the pitch, Southgate said: “I’m not 100 per cent certain that that would be what the players would want. There would be a mix of views, in terms of when we’ve discussed the topic in the past, how the players would like it to be dealt with. They just want to play football. Of course we have the chance to have an impact, but I don’t have the answer, frankly. I’m sitting here trying to find the right balance of my disgust and recognising that differing views of the players in terms of their experiences of the past... My role is to support and protect my players, first and foremost. To speak in the position I am in the right way. Beyond that, maybe that’s something I’d have to consider in the future. I have to say, it wasn’t something that came to mind at the time. I would want to have a long discussion with my players before to make sure that was a course of action they felt was a) something they wanted to do, and b) thought was something that was going to make a difference.

“I’m reflecting on 'should I have done more?'. In the end, I think I tried to protect my players as much as I possibly can. I’m not the authority on the subject. I’m a middle-aged white guy speaking about racism. It’s not something I really have... I’m just finding it a really difficult subject to broach. I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences. If people think I should have done more, then I apologise. I have spoken out constantly against the subject. I have supported all the education programmes in our own country. I manage every player as well as I possibly can, regardless of which club they’re from, what their roots are. I just feel sad.”

In what was perhaps his most erudite comment out of many, Southgate questioned the effect of fines, pointing to how it goes so much deeper.

“Reflecting on sanctions, sanctions are only of any use if they lead to education. Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people. My kids don’t think, for one minute, about where people are born, what language they speak, what colour they are. There’s an innocence about young people that is only influenced by older people. So we have to make sure the education is right for everybody, in our country the same. I’m not sitting here just criticising what’s happened tonight. We have the same issue in our country, we’re not free of it. You can sanction clubs, but that won’t stop one or two people who are of a mindset to do what they want to do. So we have to educate young people because we have a better chance with young people, and spread that as far and wide as we possibly can.

“I don’t think I’m in a position to comment on what that can or should be. It’s clearly, from my perspective, an unacceptable situation. But I’m not the right person to ask what the sanction should be. I don’t know what’s possible or what the levels could be. I think better that people who are more closely involved in those processes should articulate that than me.”

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