The racial and physical abuse subjected to England’s U21 players and staff at the end of their Euro 2013 qualifying playoff against Serbia on Tuesday has rightly outraged the majority in football, who thought those sort of dark days were long gone.
After Connor Wickham tapped into an empty net to earn England a 1-0 victory and propel them into Israel next summer, the team suffered a barrage of abuse and missiles from the Serbian home crowd, while their players stormed to the celebrating England team to verbally and physically express their grievances.
The outcome: England players were subject to clear physical violence and alleged racial abuse, while their coach, Steve Wigley, was wrestled away from the tunnel and quite visibly kicked by a member of the Serbian playing squad.
The referee, who had been out of touch all night – awarding random free kicks to both sides and failing to pick up on England’s clear timewasting – was powerless to prevent the scenes on Tuesday evening but did wield his minute power in sending Danny Rose off after the final whistle for kicking an object into the very crowd that was allegedly abusing him.
In the next few weeks, we can expect UEFA to come up with a sincere and tough-talking press release about how they are doing their utmost to stamp out these sort of ugly scenes, before tickling the Serbian FA with a spineless fine.
Last year UEFA president Michael Platini warned Serbia they faced expulsion from Euro 2012 if crowd trouble continued after a clash with Italy was abandoned due to idiotic supporters completely out of touch with modern-day football and society.
Yet this warning is unlikely to serve as a precursor for stricter punishments. UEFA imposed a harsher fine (£80,000) on Nicklas Bendtner for exposing some branded advertising during Euro 2012 than any previous fine over racial abuse and they are bound to let Serbia off lightly here.
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