Southgate concerned about potential fan disorder in Prague
England manager also says he believes racism could be an issue for trip to Sofia
England manager Gareth Southgate has appealed to fans not to be disruptive in Prague for his side’s next Euro 2020 qualifier. Photo: Neil Hall/EPA
Gareth Southgate has admitted he fears the worst when it comes to England’s next two qualifying matches and the potential for disorder involving the team’s supporters in the Czech Republic as well as the risk of players being racially abused when they move on to Bulgaria.
Southgate said he was not confident the game in Sofia on October 14th would pass without any racial abuse, citing what had happened when England visited in 2011 and the monkey chants directed at Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and Ashley Cole.
England play in Prague three days earlier and Southgate, in keeping with the general feeling of the Football Association, has serious reservations about thousands of travelling supporters descending on one of Europe’s stag-do capitals for a Friday-night fixture.
The FA is so concerned it has successfully applied for England’s ticket allocation to be increased from 1,100 to 3,800, the thinking being that it would be better to reduce the number of ticketless fans who might seek to enter home sections of the stadium.
“It’s sad we have to appeal to people going to follow us to behave,” Southgate said. “So many thousands of fans went to Portugal [for the European Nations’ League] in the summer. So many of them represented us so well and yet some of them let themselves down and let their country down.
“I always feel the need to differentiate between those two groups because, although there are larger numbers than we would want who let people down, there are thousands and thousands who have supported us so brilliantly, whose stories I have loved hearing and who are so important to us. It should be a given [that they behave] and sadly it isn’t.
“Sadly, we are going to a place where people travel anyway for nights out from our country. What we don’t need to see is that behaviour that I am afraid happens on our own high streets. It is not something that is just England supporters, it is a societal issue of people with alcohol who are unable to control themselves. We certainly don’t want to be taking that abroad and that being a representation of our country.”
England’s progress in Group A has already been tarnished by the racist abuse directed at Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi in Montenegro in March. Bulgaria are repeat offenders and Uefa has ordered that 5,000 seats remain unused next month as a punishment for racial chanting during matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June. A Bulgarian supporter was ejected from Wembley on Saturday after allegedly directing racial abuse towards Sterling.
Southgate’s players have told the manager previously they do not want to walk off in protest if it happens again, but he intends to ask if that remains the case. “It is a concern,” Southgate said. “It’s something we’ve already planned and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go. We’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.
“We are going to address that when we all get back together. We didn’t think it was right to do it this month because it’s too far away, but we have to hope – we’re not confident – that we’ll go there and nothing will happen.” – Guardian