Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Southgate hopes behind-closed-doors match will educate Hungary fans

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Gareth Southgate hopes Hungary being forced to play their UEFA Nations League opening match against England behind closed doors will serve to demonstrate the unacceptability of racism to younger fans.

Saturday’s sparse crowd at the Puskas Arena will be populated by children after UEFA issued Hungary with a three-match spectator ban.

This was due to racist abuse by supporters during Euro 2020 games in Budapest.

UEFA rules state that children — along with one adult for every 10 young fans — can attend behind-closed-doors matches.

England will equally take advantage of this when they also serve a one-match spectator ban during their home game against Italy at Molineux on June 11.

Their punishment was handed down after crowd trouble broke out prior to the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 final loss to Italy last July.

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Southgate’s side have been faced with unsavoury scenes when visiting Hungary before.

Raheem Sterling and other black players were the target of abuse during England’s 4-0 win in Budapest in September 2021.

FIFA later gave the hosts a separate spectator ban after those events.

Speaking at his pre-match news conference, Southgate stated his hope that allowing young fans to attend in such circumstances would help to bring about a future free of discrimination.

“I imagine Hungary will have the same feelings about restrictions on their home games as us.

“They won’t want it to happen again. Everybody learns from every experience,” he said.

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“Our players wanted to focus on the football after that night [last year’s 4-0 win]. They played incredibly well, and we want to do that again.

“We’ve shown how we feel about these issues, in terms of racism and it’s unacceptability.

“Hopefully the young people in the stadium will recognise why this opportunity has happened and, in some ways, maybe this will be part of the education for the next generation.

“Each generation that passes will bring more tolerance, and we have the same situation in our country.

“So, we’ve got to keep setting the right example. All being well, the young people will enjoy the game and take a bigger message from it.”

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Meanwhile, England skipper Harry Kane, who scored during the dominant win in Hungary last year, says the Three Lions are focused on what they can do on the pitch.

“Obviously, the way the players responded during that game was a credit to themselves,” he recalled.

“It’s down to UEFA and what they see fit as the punishment. We can only perform to the best of our ability and try and get the three points.

“We hope the game goes well for the fans watching, and for the children coming to watch the players.

“We’re concentrating on the game, and we want to get off to a good start.”

dpa/NAN

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