Montenegro ordered to play Euro qualifier behind closed doors
Montenegro have been ordered to play their European Championship qualifier against Kosovo behind closed doors after a number of their supporters racially abused England players last month.
Danny Rose, Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi were particularly targeted by groups of home fans within the Gradski Stadion in Podgorica as the Three Lions won 5-1 on March 25.
Sterling celebrated his goal in the game in front of the Montenegrin fans, who were heard directing monkey chants to England’s black players.
The Football Association of Montenegro announced on Friday that UEFA has ordered Montenegro to play their June 7 qualifier at home to Kosovo in an empty stadium as a result.
Speaking immediately after England’s win, Sterling called on UEFA to invoke a stadium ban as punishment.
“It is 2019 and I think there should be a real punishment for this, not just for the few people being banned,” the Manchester City forward said.
“It needs to be a collective thing. This stadium holds 15,000 and I think the punishment should be that as a nation your fans are chanting racist abuse so I think it should be the whole stadium can’t watch it.
“Then when that ban is lifted your fans will think twice not to do anything silly like that because they all love football, they all want to be there to support their nation so it will make them think twice to do something silly like that.”
Hudson-Odoi also spoke out on the issue, while England manager Gareth Southgate was visibly upset about the treatment of his players after the game.
UEFA regulations meant a partial ban was an option – but Montenegro will now play in a completely empty ground.
Further charges, carrying fines amounting to 20,000EUR, were handed for the setting off of fireworks, throwing objects onto the pitch, crowd disturbances and stairways being blocked.
The Football Association welcomed the development in a Twitter post.
It read: “The FA acknowledges UEFA’s decision to sanction the Football Association of Montenegro. We hope that their next home match being played behind closed doors sends out a message that racism has no place in football or in wider society.
“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities in football to ensure that all players are able to enjoy the game in a discrimination-free environment.”