Euro 2020 finalists England beat Hungary 4-0 in Budapest to stay at the top of their group in the race to World Cup 2022. Sporadic monkey chants were heard at the Puskas Arena, Sky Sports informs. England’s players were booed by various parts of the crowd after taking the knee right before the game.

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling dedicated his goal to a late friend. (Image: Twitter/England)

“A minority of home fans were spotted aiming monkey chants toward Raheem Sterling after the forward put England in front during the second half in the Puskas Arena,” Sky Sports reports. “Four separate individuals were seen specifically involved in racist chanting, with the abuse also directed toward Jude Bellingham as he warmed up on the sideline near to a section of Hungary supporters,” the English outlet reveals.

Sky Sports also broadcast a video showing a supporter making racist gestures toward the England players.

Played in front of more than 60,000 fans, the Hungary vs England group derby confirmed the direction Group I is going in. England is already five points clear of second-place Poland, having won four out of four matches. Gareth Southgate’s men are cruising on their way to Qatar 2022, with Poland, Hungary and, potentially, Albania battling for second in the group. A runner-up spot guarantees a place in the playoffs, which is the last chance to seal a place at the World Cup in 2022.

England World Cup standings
Group I standings after four games. (Image: soccerway.com)

Kane: ‘Racism is totally unacceptable’

England captain Harry Kane was asked for comment after the monkey chants at the Puskas Arena and referred to the incident as “totally unacceptable”.

England manager Southgate said he wasn’t aware of what had happened until after the match.

“We weren’t conscious of it on the side. I don’t know if the players on the pitch were,” Southgate told Sky Sports. “But everyone knows what we’ve spoken about for two or three years. They know what we stand for as a team and we have to hope we can continue to eradicate racism not only in football but from life in general.”

The FA will ask FIFA, the World Football Association, to investigate the matter. “It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions toward some of our England players,” the FA wrote in a statement.

Besides the isolated racist gestures directed at them, England’s players were booed when taking the knee before the match started. The kneeling symbolizes the fight against racial inequality in football and society but is regarded by many as a political manifestation. Fans in England and in other European countries have also booed players for taking the knee ahead of games on more than one occasion.

Before the game in Budapest, the English media brought the subject of racism to the players’ attention asking whether they would walk off the pitch in case one of them was targeted by racial abuse. The question didn’t get a clear answer.

Hungary is supposed to play two home games behind closed doors after similar incidents took place at Euro 2020. The sanction will be applied in the Nations League, UEFA’s competition, and not in the European Qualifiers for the World Cup which fall under FIFA jurisdiction.

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