December 23 – England’s Professional Footballers’ Association has called for a government inquiry into racism in football after a year of shame was marred by yet another disgraceful incident, with Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger allegedly targeted at his club’s 2-0 derby win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Referee Anthony Taylor had to stop play during the second half after the German defender complained of hearing monkey noises.
Shortly after the incident, an announcement made over the public address system warned that “racist behaviour is interfering with the game. Please remember in football there is no place for racism.”
Rüdiger was seen putting his hands under his armpits – seemingly mimicking a monkey gesture – before informing his captain Cesar Azpilicueta. That led to referee Taylor going over to the touchline before ordering the stadium announcements, implementing a procedure to deal with discrimination. Second and third public addresses followed.
Moments before the alleged racism, Tottenham forward Son Heung-min was sent off following a VAR review of a clash involving Rudiger. The match was also held up when objects were thrown towards Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Tottenham have vowed to “take the strongest possible action” and said they will conduct “a thorough investigation”.
In a statement the PFA said: “We are disgusted and dismayed that once again, a Premier League fixture has been tainted by abuse from the stands towards players.
“It has become clear that football players are on the receiving end of the blatant racism that is currently rife in the UK, but they are not alone.
“The PFA stands beside every player who faces discrimination. We will continue to fight on their behalf to combat this issue for good.
“Football is part of the fabric of British society – with the huge global audience that English football attracts, we have a responsibility to lead the way with a zero-tolerance policy.”
The PFA added that “all governing bodies” and “all football stakeholders” should work together to “confront, challenge and eradicate racist abuse in our stadiums and in our country”.
“We will not allow this to continue. Now more than ever we must unite and stand strong and together to confront, challenge and eradicate racist abuse in our stadiums and in our country.”
“The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism within football and encourage the establishment of an All-Party Group at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”
It was the second time in three weeks a Premier League game had been stopped in such circumstances and Rudiger tweeted: “It is really sad to see racism again at a football match, but I think it’s very important to talk about it in public. If not, it will be forgotten again in a couple of days (as always).
“I don’t want to involve Tottenham as an entire club into this situation as I know that just a couple of idiots were the offenders. I got a lot of supportive messages on social media from Spurs fans as well in the last hours – thank you a lot for this.
“I really hope that the offenders will be found and punished soon, and in such a modern football ground like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with dozens of TV and security cameras, it must be possible to find and subsequently punish them.
“If not, then there must have been witnesses in the stadium who saw and heard the incident. It’s just such a shame that racism still exists in 2019. When will this nonsense stop?”
On Skysports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville delivered a passionate speech, saying the Premier League needed to stand up to the problem, but he was shut down Sky Sports host David Jones.
“We’ve just had a general election in this country where both main parties and the leaders of both main parties are accused, constantly over the last month, of fuelling racism and accepting racism within their parties,” said Neville. “We’re not talking about it at a micro level, we are talking about it at … the highest level in the country.”
The incident came a year after racism in football hit the headlines after Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling was subjected to racist abuse by a Chelsea supporter. Sterling was also one of a number of England players who faced monkey chants and Nazi salutes by opposing fans during Euro 2020 qualifiers this year.
A supporter was also arrested and bailed over allegations of racist abuse against Manchester United players during their hotly contested derby at Manchester City on December 7.
In Italy, where the problem is far more widespread, every Serie A club has joined a ‘No To Racism’ campaign. Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku and Brescia’s Mario Balotelli are among those subjected to racist insults from rival fans this season.
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