England’s Football Association complained to European soccer’s governing body that its under-21 team was subjected to racial abuse and stone-throwing from Serbia fans in a match that ended in scuffles.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was “appalled” by the incidents, his spokesman said. Serbia’s Sports Minister Alisa Maric said she’s asked for a report from the country’s soccer federation, which denied there was any racist behavior before or during the game last night.
England won 1-0 on a Connor Wickham goal in second-half stoppage time. The referee’s final whistle prompted brawling between players and officials from both teams as England advanced to a record fourth straight European Under-21 Championship finals. England’s Danny Rose, a black player, was sent off after the game in Krusevac, Serbia, when he kicked the ball away and got a second yellow card.
“The F.A. condemns both the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle during which time our players and staff were under extreme provocation,” the governing body said in a statement. “The F.A. has reported a number of incidents of racism to UEFA. These were seemingly aimed at a number of England’s black players by the crowd. The matter is now with UEFA.”
UEFA said it started disciplinary proceedings against the F.A. and the Serbian federation for the “improper conduct” of their players, and against the Serbian body over alleged racist chanting by spectators.
Rose, a Tottenham player on loan at Sunderland, left the field making a gesture to the crowd suggesting he had been racially abused. Last night’s scenes bore echoes of a match between the two teams in 2007 after which Serbia was fined 20,000 euros ($26,000) when fans racially abused England defender Nedum Onuoha.
“I had two stones hit me in the head when I went for a throw-in,” Rose, 22, told Sky Sports. “After 60 minutes my mind wasn’t really on the game. I was just so angry and it was so hard to concentrate.”
The defender said after the winning goal he “expressed my emotions.”
“Next thing I know, all the Serbia players were surrounding me, pushing me,” he said. “I remember getting slapped twice. I got ushered away and that’s when I kicked the ball -- and then the referee sent me off.”
England won 2-0 on aggregate over two matches.
Cameron condemned the incidents and endorsed the F.A.’s protest.
“He was appalled by the scenes that we have seen in Serbia,” his spokesman Steve Field said. “We are determined to stamp out racism overseas and at home and we are giving full backing to the F.A.’s complaint. If we are going to stamp out racism from football then it is no good handing out derisory fines as has happened in the past.”
Serbian soccer officials laid the blame on Rose, saying his reaction after the match led to the brawl. Still, they’ll have to answer to Sports Minister Maric, who has convened a meeting of Serbia’s National Council for the Fight Against Violence in Sports.
“I strongly condemn any sports event turning into provocation and insult,” she said. “I decisively oppose any form of violence and discrimination, particularly in sports events.”