Boris Johnson demands action after racist abuse of England football players

UK prime minister condemns as 'completely unacceptable' behaviour in Hungary and urges Fifa to take strong action

England players look towards the crowd after their game against Hungary in Budapest was interrupted by flares landing on the pitch. England players were also the subject of racist abuse. AFP
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UK British prime minister Boris Johnson has demanded urgent action after racist abuse was aimed at England football players in Hungary.

He called on football's international governing body Fifa to find a punishment strong enough to act as a deterrent, after abuse and plastic glasses rained down on players in the World Cup qualifying game in Budapest on Thursday.

Hungary was already serving a ban on spectators as punishment by European football governing body Uefa for similar incidents during Euro 2020 games.

But because the game was held under Fifa auspices the ban was not in effect and spectators were allowed.

“It is completely unacceptable that England players were racially abused in Hungary last night,” Mr Johnson tweeted.

He urged Fifa to take “strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behaviour is eradicated from the game for good".

Fifa has vowed to take action after the abuse, which reporters in the stadium said included monkey chants directed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham during the match at the Puskas Arena.

Missiles and a flare were also thrown on to the pitch by a hostile home crowd during England’s 4-0 win.

England players were also booed before kick-off in the Hungarian capital, after they took the knee as a gesture against racism and discrimination.

Fifa said “adequate action” would be taken in regard to the abuse the players were subjected to in Budapest.

“First and foremost, Fifa strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero-tolerance stance for such behaviour in football,” it said on Friday.

“Fifa will take adequate actions as soon as it receives match reports concerning yesterday's Hungary-England game.”

The Puskas Arena in Budapest was packed with Hungary supporters as a Uefa ban did not apply to World Cup qualifiers. AFP

Mr Johnson's government has previously been criticised by some players and commentators over attitudes towards racist abuse.

Some ministers were condemned for not criticising a section of England supporters who booed their own players for taking the knee before kick-off at matches during this summer's Euro 2020 tournament.

Ministers were accused of fanning the flames of prejudice.

Black players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were subsequently targets of racist abuse, after they missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout that saw Italy win the final in July.

The Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) said any fans identified would face legal action but it did not address the racism allegations.

“We need to identify the troublemakers and strictly punish them,” the MLSZ said.

“The fans who threw flares and cups on the pitch are being identified. The Hungarian Football Federation will report/has already reported them to the police.”

Updated: September 03, 2021, 6:45 PM