09 Oct Abraham and Alexander-Arnold: England players ready to make stand against racism
Tammy Abraham and Trent Alexander-Arnold say England’s players are prepared to defy UEFA’s racism protocols and walk off the pitch if someone is targeted.
Gareth Southgate’s side face away Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic on Friday and Bulgaria on Monday, with the second game – played at a partially closed Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia as a sanction for racism – set to come under particular scrutiny.
England’s players were racially abused during their March qualifier against Montenegro in Podgorica, where they stayed on the pitch and ran out 5-1 winners.
Southgate has said that, going forward, England will follow UEFA’s three-step protocol for dealing with racial abuse, which begins with making the referee aware of the situation and can end with the match being abandoned.
But Abraham has suggested that, if England’s players believe someone is not comfortable, captain Harry Kane will lead them off the field before the three steps are carried out.
“We’ve had several meetings about it since we’ve arrived (on Monday),” the Chelsea forward said.
“We’ve touched base on how to deal with the situation. Harry Kane even said that if it happens and we’re not happy with it, we speak to the player and if he’s not happy, we all come off the pitch together.
“It’s a team thing. Don’t isolate one person, we’re a whole team. If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.
“We did speak about that. Harry Kane did ask the question about instead of going through the three steps, if we decide that we want to stop the game and we want to stop the game – no matter what the score is – if we’re not happy with it, as a team we’ll decide whether or not to stay on the pitch.”
Abraham, who suffered online racist abuse earlier this season after missing a penalty in the Super Cup shoot-out defeat to Liverpool, believes offering abusers more than one chance is also the incorrect approach.
“For me personally, I think it’s just one strike because it gives people excuses,” he added. “One time, twice, three times – it gives silly people excuses.”
Liverpool full-back Alexander-Arnold reckons the protocols will be followed but that, in any “extreme” situation, a different course of action may be appropriate.
“We had the meeting with the team and the staff,” he said.
“We talked, everyone was happy and content with the way it went. We all understand what would happen if that situation occurred.
“UEFA have their way of doing it, the way we need to follow. That’s what were going to do.
“As a team, we’re all agreed we need to follow the protocol in place. Obviously as a team, as UEFA will make their decisions, we’ll also make our decisions and we’ll have a discussion about that if that time ever comes. Hopefully it doesn’t.
“We need to be professional athletes. We have an obligation to follow the protocols, that’s what we need to do. If it does get to the extreme, maybe different action might be taken.
“Hopefully that doesn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen in modern football. We’re going there hoping nothing will happen and I’m sure nothing will.”
While walking off the pitch may be seen by many as taking a strong stand against racial abuse, Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool team-mate Joe Gomez feels cases may have to be judged on individual merit.
“I think there is a clear standpoint in what the opinion is on the whole matter,” the defender told talkSPORT.
“It is outrageous really that it is still going on in this day and age but I think it is a balancing act in your response, whether you feed into it or not and give them the satisfaction.
“For instance, if you come off the pitch, those sort of people might think they have won because if they are that naive to do it in the first place, they might be that slow in their thinking that it is a win for them.
“We all had a discussion and there is clear protocol in place and what we would should do.
“If it does happen, we all have to be united as a team and a country as a whole – it isn’t just the players on the pitch.”