Serbia shamed by racism and violence after England loss
Under-21 encounter descends into chaos as England beat Serbia, but will Uefa act?
EDITOR'S NOTE, 3.20PM: Since this story was published the Serbian FA has rejected the allegations of racism and accused England's Danny Rose of acting in a "inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner" at the end of the game. The English FA has also released a statement saying it would "question the validity of sending a team to Serbia in the future".
IF LAST night's events in Poland weren't bad enough for England supporters, then the sight of the Under-21 team being subjected to racist abuse and violence at the hands of Serbian fans, players and coaching staff at the end of their game in capped a dismal night for the FA, although none of it was their fault.
Stuart Pearce's team qualified for next year's European Championships thanks to a 1-0 win over Serbia in Krusevac which gave them a 2-0 aggregate victory. The winning goal came from Connor Wickham with the final kick of the game and sparked ugly scenes inside the stadium.
England's players and staff had been subjected to abuse throughout the game, but things escalated even further at the final whistle.
"A hostile atmosphere inside the Stadion Mladost exploded as England’s players celebrated Wickham's goal. Large missiles, which appeared to be lumps of concrete, could be seen raining down on them, along with spit and coins," reported The Daily Telegraph. "As monkey chants reverberated around the ground, full-back Danny Rose angrily kicked the ball into the stands before gesturing with his hands under his armpits that he was responding to the chants. That led to a red card for Rose, who was then accosted by Serbian players, sparking an ugly melee on the pitch involving players and staff from both sides."
During the fracas several players were involved in scuffles with their Serbian opponents, coach Steve Wigley was kicked and attacked in the tunnel and goalkeeping coach, Martin Thomas, appeared to be headbutted.
The FA said it condemned "the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle" and added that it had "reported a number of incidents of racism to Uefa".
Former England midfielder Paul Ince, whose son Tom was playing in the match, called for Serbia to be thrown out of international football. "If it was me, they would be kicked out for the next five tournaments. This takes us back to the dark ages," he raged.
England manager Stuart Pearce, known as Pyscho during his playing days, kept his cool during the melee and afterwards described it as "disgraceful". "I try to teach my players how to play the game in the right manner," he added.
The British press was furious. "How much longer do we have to put up with the sickening racism that accompanies so many of England's games against eastern European opposition?" demanded the Daily Mail. It called for Serbia to be banned from football after a "night of shame".
"The final whistle prompted a pitch invasion from the respective benches, in which England attempted to celebrate and Serbia to start a footballing war," said The Times.
"Last night's sickening scenes in Serbia totally eclipsed anything I've ever seen before," wrote Sun reporter Paul Jiggins. "These matches are usually family affairs... However, arriving in this remote town 120 miles south of the capital Belgrade, you could sense this was going to be different. Not many families here, just shaven-headed throwbacks with knuckles dragging on the floor."
It is now up to Uefa to make sure that Serbia are properly dealt with, he added.