Hungary fans clash with police during England World Cup qualifier

LONDON: England’s midfielder Raheem Sterling (left) and defender John Stones take the knee in support of the No Room For Racism campaign, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match between England and Hungary at Wembley Stadium in London on Tuesday. – AFP

LONDON: Hungary supporters clashed with police at Wembley as a fan was arrested for racist abuse of a steward during Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against England. England manager Gareth Southgate branded the ugly clashes “unacceptable”, while England defender Tyrone Mings called for harsher punishments for racism in football. Just moments after kick-off, trouble flared among the pocket of around 1,000 Hungarians in one corner of Wembley. Dozens of Hungary supporters charged at stewards, who were forced to retreat before police wielding batons arrived.

The fighting continued for several minutes before riot police finally restored order in the stands and the stadium concourse. The incident occurred when police moved in to arrest one Hungary fan for a racist comment to a steward. Hungary’s supporters also booed when England players took the knee before kick-off and held up a banner protesting against the anti-racism gesture. “I was aware of a disturbance. It sounds like it was not acceptable but I haven’t seen the detail,” Southgate said.

Mings added: “Every time we speak on racial abuse the punishments that follow never seem in line with what has happened. I sincerely hope that if that is the case, the punishments fall in line with what happened this time.” Hungary manager Marco Rossi refused to condemn the fans, saying: “I don’t want to comment about this situation. It is not my task. Everything I could say could be interpreted in a different way, so I prefer no comment.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed the arrest on their Twitter account. “Shortly after the start of tonight’s match at Wembley, officers entered the stand to arrest a spectator for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments made towards a steward,” a statement said. “As the officers made the arrest, minor disorder broke out involving other spectators. Order was quickly restored and there have been no further incidents at this stage.”

The English Football Association said they would report the incident to FIFA and launch an investigation of their own. “We will be investigating and will report the incident to FIFA,” an FA statement said. It was not the first time Hungary fans had caused problems during their meetings with England in the qualifying campaign. England’s 4-0 win in Budapest in September was marred by racist chants from Hungarians aimed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham. Missiles were also thrown at England’s players at the Puskas Arena.

Hungary were ordered to play two home FIFA competition matches behind closed doors, one suspended for two years, following the racist behavior. UEFA had already told Hungary to play one game behind closed doors following racist abuse from supporters and homophobic banners in the stands during their Euro 2020 matches in Budapest.

Wembley had also been the scene of crowd disorder just months ago when England’s defeat against Italy in the final of Euro 2020 was marred by ticketless fans storming the gates to gain entry. Thousands of fans managed to break through Wembley’s under-staffed security cordon before the final, while drunken supporters caused havoc outside the stadium hours before kick-off. – AFP

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