Gareth Southgate underlined the need for education when tackling the kind of racism endured by England’s players on a night of shame in Montenegro.
Ross Barkley’s brace was complemented by goals from Michael Keane, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling as the Three Lions overcame the hosts’ early opener to seal an impressive 5-1 win.
But there was barely any talk about the football after Monday night’s Euro 2020 qualifier as the Group A clash in Podgorica was marred by racism.
Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were subjected to monkey chants in the first half, with Sterling celebrating the fifth goal by pulling his ears as a sign of defiance to what he later called on social media “racists”.
Rose was abused again towards the end of the match and UEFA is now set to launch an investigation into the abuse.
An emotional Southgate struggled to gather his thoughts after the game and did not want to be drawn into sanctions, instead pointing to education when he was told that Montenegro boss Ljubisa Tumbakovic claimed not to have heard anything.
“I don’t think I need to comment on what was said,” England boss Southgate said. “It was clear to everybody that there were comments made.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) March 25, 2019
“Reflecting on sanctions, sanctions are only of any use if they lead to education.
“Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people.
“My kids don’t think for one minute about where people are born, what language they speak, what colour they are.
“There’s an innocence about young people that is only influenced by older people. So, we have to make sure that the education is right for everybody.
“In our country, (it’s) the same. I’ve said this before, I’m not sitting here just criticising what’s happened tonight because in our country we have the same issue. We’re not free of it.
“You can sanction clubs (or countries), but frankly that’s not going to stop one or two people who are of a mindset from doing what they want to do.
“So, we have to make sure that we educate young people because we have a better chance with young people and then we’ve got to lead that as far and as wide as we possibly can.”
UEFA regulations state that if supporters engage in racist behaviour then “the member association or club responsible is punished with a minimum of a partial stadium closure”.
🌟 Sterling 🌟
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@UEFAEURO) March 25, 2019
Article 14 also states that additional disciplinary measures can be imposed depending on the situation, while “disciplinary measures may be combined with specific directives aimed at tackling such conduct”.
It was a sad end to an impressive night for England, who showed resolve and skill as they scored five goals or more in back-to-back matches for the first time since 1984.
“We actually started the game well and then with their first attack we go a goal behind,” Southgate said, having overseen a 5-0 win against the Czech Republic on Friday.
“So, if you knew you were going to win by five, that would be a good test to be experiencing. At the time, not so much fun.
5 – England have scored 5+ goals in consecutive matches for the first time since November 1984. Rout. pic.twitter.com/sgO6AIggZC
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 25, 2019
“But we’ve talked with them all week about total belief in the way we play, and they stuck with that.
“Our attacking threat across the two games has been exceptional.
“The key to the game today was quite simple: we had to keep our wingers really wide and keep feeding the ball to them.
“Sometimes it seems it’s too easy to do it and we slightly overcomplicated it.
— England (@England) March 25, 2019
“Once we got the ball to them, they were outstanding, the two of them.
“(We’re) Really pleased. (There are) lots of encouraging things, young players who have come in and done an exceptional job.
“A lot for us to take forward as a group given we had a lot of hurdles to overcome in getting our squad together and people have really stepped up and I’m very proud of the group of players.”