London – England players’ families and friends were left appalled by the level of racist chanting in Montenegro on Monday night.
They heard monkey chants and racist comments — including the N-word — and children were even seen imitating adults in making vile remarks during England’s 5-1 win. The abuse was so severe that Prime Minister Theresa May’s office felt moved to join the protests.
The loved ones of players, including Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho, were behind the home bench where the taunts are said to have been particularly venomous.
Monkey noises were aimed at Danny Rose towards the end of the game and a lighter was thrown at 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi as England celebrated one of their three second-half goals.
Montenegro face at least a stadium closure after the FA branded the racist abuse aimed at England’s players ‘unacceptable’.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro on Tuesday, with president Aleksander Ceferin, describing the events as ‘a disaster’.
England players swiftly rallied round team-mates who were racially abused with the defiant message: ‘Abuse one of us, you abuse us all’. Tottenham left back Rose looked distraught as he left the Podgorica City Stadium. This is the second time he has endured such treatment in the Balkans, the first being in Serbia when he was on England Under 21 duty in 2012.
A source said: ‘It was made clear to everyone in the dressing room that they all stand together after what happened. Go for one of us, you go for us all.’
England captain Harry Kane condemned the racist abuse, saying: ‘It’s unacceptable in my eyes and the team’s eyes. We’ll stick together, stick with the players, do what we can, but ultimately it’s down to UEFA and whoever is organising it to take charge and punish fans caught doing this.
‘I don’t want any of my friends going through that. It shouldn’t be happening but it’s out of our hands and we’ll see what happens.’
The match had been monitored by UEFA, who had viewed the fixture as being high risk. There is a history of such incidents in Podgorica, with Rangers players DaMarcus Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville subjected to similar abuse in August 2007, and a dossier has been compiled.
Such was the severity of the episode that James Slack, the Prime Minister’s spokesman, demanded ‘strong and swift’ action from UEFA. Europe’s governing body made it clear the minimum punishment, if they are found guilty, will be a partial closure of the stadium.
A FA spokesperson said: ‘England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting. This is unacceptable at any level of the game and we welcome UEFA’s decision. Our immediate focus is on supporting UEFA with their investigation and the players and staff involved.
‘Our experience is that by combining both sanctions and education, while working alongside campaigners such as Kick It Out, real progress can be made. But there remains much work to be done. We must all take responsibility to work together and share our experiences to tackle discrimination.’
England manager Gareth Southgate was left numb by what happened. He did, however, address the players on the flight back to Birmingham airport.
Montenegro’s next game is against Kosovo on June 7. UEFA will have no compunction about shutting the stadium, as they did when Croatia hosted England in Rijeka last October.