England’s World Cup qualifier in Hungary has been placed on a ‘red list’ by FIFA after previous discriminatory behavior by Hungarian fans and observers were sent to the game to film abuse.
Monitors will also report the reaction to English players when they kneel before the match, which was a flash point when the Republic of Ireland visited Budapest in June.
The organization appointed by FIFA to monitor the match expects the governing body to take action against the Hungarians if there is widespread opposition to the anti-racism gesture.
England players continued to kneel despite objections and will do so again in Budapest
The Fare Network is also concerned that the high-profile match could even be abandoned under the three-step protocol, if the abuse that has marred Hungary’s recent home games is repeated.
Irish players were badly mistreated when they knelt before a friendly in Budapest in June, after the fans’ action was enthusiastically supported by Hungarian President Victor Orban.
There was subsequently homophobic and racist abuse at all three Euro 2020 group matches in the city, involving France, Hungary and Portugal.
Hungary was given a three-match stadium ban by UEFA after Euro 2020, but that doesn’t apply to FIFA competitions, so more than 60,000 fans are expected at the Puskas Arena tomorrow.
Republic of Ireland players were mistreated when they collapsed in Hungary in June
‘Everyone of Ronaldo and French players was mistreated’ [during Euro 2020 matches in Budapest], homophobic and monkeys sang to French players and that all led to UEFA ban [fans] for three matches,” said Piara Powar, the chief executive of the Fare Network, which FIFA has appointed to monitor fan behavior at matches.
HUNGARIAN PM objects to knee
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made strong remarks about the abuse by fans of Republic of Ireland players during an international friendly in Budapest in June.
Orban, who faces a tough election challenge from a united opposition next year, said Hungarian athletes were expected to “stand up” fighting.
“When you are a guest in a country, understand its culture and don’t provoke it,” Orban said at a news conference the day after the game. “Don’t provoke the host… We can only see this gestural system from our cultural point of view as incomprehensible, as provocation.”
“The fans reacted the way provoked people usually react to provocation. They don’t always choose the most elegant form (of reaction) but we have to understand their reasons… I agree with the fans.’
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban
“There’s an ominous mix of politics and a very diverse team from England who like to put their minds first. They are very clear that they stand for positive and inclusive values and taking the knee is part of that.
UEFA took no action after the cheers from Irish players, but Powar expects FIFA to crack down if there is widespread opposition to the anti-racism gesture this time around.
“If the booing at FIFA is very loud…, if it is the majority of the crowd as it is against the Republic of Ireland, then we would certainly argue to FIFA that this is an offense and FIFA will probably approach differently. ‘
“We would certainly argue that it is a violation and action should be taken.”
The Fare Network gives FIFA a risk rating for every match and has marked it as a “red list,” Powar said. As a result, FIFA has sanctioned the presence of observers, who will submit a report.
However, players, coaches and officials do not have to wait until the end of the game to take action against abuse. According to the three-step protocol, if abuse is detected and the public is warned about their behavior, the competition can be interrupted. That can happen a second time and if it persists, the game can be stopped on the third occasion.
Powar is not aware of any stoppages, although a number of matches have been suspended, including England’s 2020 Euro 2020 qualifying match against Bulgaria in Sofia in October 2019, which was interrupted twice in the first half, and some matches involving Mexico used to be.
“The England players, the coaching team and the executive are more confident in using that system than ever before, they know the system very well,” he said.
“If there’s the kind of racism we saw during the European Championship, there’s a good chance the game can be stopped. Absolute.’
“FIFA is really using all the power they have to get a message across.”
England’s players have said they will take the knee ahead of the game in Hungary, despite the abuse inflicted on visiting teams in Budapest in recent months.
England has been steadfast in their protests against racism and kept on kneeling
And Powar has praised the Three Lions’ courage for sticking to their principles.
‘60,000 [Hungarian supporters] without opposition fans it will be hostile anyway,” Powar said.
“It’s a very brave move. You have to give them credit for sticking to their principles and doing what they believe in.
“This is a new type of player. They are well aware of their social responsibility; of the way they are seen and the change they can create.
“It’s a measure of their courage. That is a word that is sometimes overused. But literally knowing what could come and still doing it is a strong thing to do.
“And knowing that they’ll have to play, that they’ve got an hour and a half to go and the mental strength it takes to get through that when things get really hostile.
Kalvin Phillips (L), says England players will kneel in Budapest against Hughary
‘We cannot predict this; we can just continue with what happened less than two months ago at the European Championship.’
FORCED TO PLAY BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Hungary were ordered to play their next three home games behind closed doors after UEFA found their supporters guilty of discriminatory behavior during Euro 2020.
After each of Hungary’s group matches against Portugal, France and Germany in June, charges of racism and other discriminatory behavior were filed.
The third game of the ban will be suspended for two years’ probation.
Hungary must also display a banner promoting equality in future matches.
In addition, the Hungarian Football Association was fined £85,500 for the number of violations committed by fans.
But the UEFA ban does not apply to FIFA matches.
It is surprising, however, that fans are at all at the game, in light of the UEFA ban imposed in July. According to Powar, admitting fans to the game is a ‘farce’.
“If you believe that sanctions can work and we do, it hurts the football associations,” he said.
“A lot of it depends on match day earnings. Playing three games without fans will hurt badly. They won’t want that to happen again. But logically you would expect them to be sanctioned for the upcoming matches.
‘I think it’s a farce if you have countries where there are clear dangers. The dangers are not theoretical, not for the spectacle, but for real individuals. If you look at the way the Irish players were hit, many were having a hard time psychologically, they would have felt like they were being attacked. It does real damage to real people.’
All eyes are on Budapest for the match that starts at 7:45 PM.
“The Hungarians know they are being watched and are facing a three-game suspension. It’s an intoxicating mix that we hope will pass peacefully, but it certainly has the potential for some very unsavory things to happen,” Powar said.
The England squad discussed their response to racial abuse ahead of the match, as they have on previous occasions.
“We always prepare the team for anything,” England manager Gareth Southgate said today. “We did that this week. We know we’ve had our own problems at home, so we don’t focus on other countries.”
He was quick to comfort Bukayo Saka after his penalty miss in the latest shootout against Italy
The England team and manager were steadfast in their protest against racism before and during the Euro 2020 tournament this summer, despite some England supporters booing their pre-match actions.
Despicable online abuse received by some players following England’s latest defeat to Italy has further angered them,
And central midfielder, Kalvin Phillips, told reporters the players will “stay on their knees because it’s important to us, important to our country and to fight racist abuse.”