FIFA pledges action after racist abuse of England in Hungary

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England’s Raheem Sterling runs with the ball during the World Cup 2022 group I qualifying soccer match between Hungary and England at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

After England players faced racial abuse in Hungary, FIFA said Friday it will take “adequate actions” once it has completed its investigation.

The statement from FIFA stopped short of directly condemning Hungary fans for the abuse, which included monkey chanting, in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier at Puskas Arena in Budapest that England won 4-0.

“Following analysis of the match reports, FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings concerning the incidents,” the world governing body said, without specifically referencing discriminatory incidents.

Hungary had recently been ordered to play two matches without fans but the sanction from UEFA didn’t take effect for the visit of England because the game was under FIFA’s jurisdiction. FIFA didn’t explain why it didn’t seek to apply the punishment immediately.

“FIFA would like to state that our position remains firm and resolute in rejecting any form of racism and violence as well as any other form of discrimination or abuse,” FIFA said in a statement. “We have a very clear zero tolerance stance against such abhorrent behaviors in football.”

The racist abuse has been condemned by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been criticized for his own racially offensive comments in the past.

“It is completely unacceptable that England players were racially abused in Hungary last night,” Johnson said on Twitter. “I urge (FIFA) to take strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behaviour is eradicated from the game for good.”

England’s players were jeered for taking a knee, pelted with plastic cups after goals and then targeted with alleged racist chants.

Pitch-side reporters for domestic broadcasters ITV and Sky Sports said they saw and heard individuals among the Hungary supporters behind one of the goals aim monkey chants at Raheem Sterling and unused substitute Jude Bellingham, who are Black. Sky Sports showed video footage of one spectator giving the abuse.

The game was played in front of a crowd of 60,000 mostly Hungarian fans about two months after UEFA ordered the team to play three matches without fans — one of which was suspended for a probationary period of two years — as a punishment for what was termed “discriminatory” behavior by its supporters at all three of its Euro 2020 group games.

Those behind-closed-doors games have to be in UEFA competition, though. World Cup qualifiers are organized by FIFA.

“Why do we keep coming back to these same scenarios, when they’re so predictable and they’re so preventable?” said Tony Burnett, chief executive of anti-racism group Kick It Out. “If the governing bodies and the right people have got the intent to affect change, they’ll do it.

“The question for us is why FIFA didn’t act to prevent this, and why the global football system didn’t work together to prevent this,” Burnett continued. “All I’m hearing again thus far is excuses about who should file what paperwork and who should file permission.”

The Hungarian Football Association made no mention of the racial abuse in a statement, published Friday, condemning the actions of “those who were disruptive” in the crowd.

The Hungarian FA said it was looking to identify the people who threw what the body described as “flash grenades and cups” onto the field and will report them to the police.

“Any possible fines will be issued to the perpetrators by the association through a civil litigation procedure,” the statement read, “after which they will be subject to a two-year ban from attending sporting events.”

It said the “vast majority of the 60,000 fans in the Puskas Arena were there encouraging their team in a sportsmanlike way, even when their team was losing.”

___ AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report

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