Paul Stewart column: Crack down hard on countries found guilty of racist chanting

Raheem Sterling said his goal celebration on Monday was a direct response to the racist chanting in Montenegro
Raheem Sterling said his goal celebration on Monday was a direct response to the racist chanting in Montenegro
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As we return to a domestic weekend of football with England, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland having started their respective Euro 2020 qualifiers with great results, yet again we see these wins being overshadowed by racist chants which have dominated the headlines.

England, in particular, showed again the emergence of a group of players comfortable on the world stage and looking like a team with the potential to go even better than last summer’s World Cup semi-final appearance.

Yet the newspapers and sports reports are all centred around the disgraceful behaviour of, not just a section of fans, but almost a whole nation.

I was shocked and dismayed at what the black players of our national team had to endure in their second qualifying game against Montenegro.

There is no place in society for this kind of behaviour and the authorities need to take a hard line with the punishment they dish out.

Playing games behind closed doors is definitely not the answer.

The only option if we are to really stop this kind of behaviour is to kick them out of the competition.

I know that they will not take this action; you only have to look at past sanctions to see that they are totally out of touch with the severity and what is classed as unacceptable.

I say this due to the fact that, in the past, nations have been fined and given less penalties for racist abuse than for when a team returns onto the pitch a minute late for the second half of a game.

What are we saying to countries that still continue to show this kind of behaviour if we fine teams more, turning out one minute late for the second half than we do when almost the whole stadiums fans are making racist chant as they did for the Montenegro game?

I watched the post-match interviews and looked on in disbelief as the Montenegro head coach refused to acknowledge that he heard anything when asked about the chants, and his press officer blatantly ignoring the direct questions asked by the press.

What is this saying to his players and moreover his countrymen?

If that had been an England contingent and had happened in the UK, you can bet the world would have been in uproar and the punishment would be far harsher than will be placed on Montenegro.

Again I have to commend the players who suffered this abuse for the way in which they handled themselves.

They should be proud, as should their families, of how they shrugged off the incidents and carried on in the manner they did.

No-one would have criticised them if they had decided to walk off the pitch and not continue to play.

They showed a maturity beyond their years, and a professionalism that can only be admired.

The people in charge need to make an example of one of these nations with stronger penalties.

Otherwise we are never going to be rid of these barbaric people, who are uneducated and so out of touch with today’s society.