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Gareth Southgate hails 'mature' duo Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham after receiving racist abuse

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Gareth Southgate has hailed England stars Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham for their maturity after the pair faced racist chanting from Hungary fans in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier. 

Sterling, who scored the opening goal in a 4-0 victory for the Three Lions, endured the abuse after celebrating in front of a section of the Budapest crowd, while midfielder Bellingham – an unused substitute in the game – was the subject of monkey noises from those supporters while he was warming up on the touchline.  

FIFA have opened up disciplinary proceedings concerning the incidents in the Hungarian capital, but as England’s attention turns towards a second qualifier with Andorra at Wembley on Sunday, Three Lions boss Southgate praised Sterling, Bellingham and the rest of his squad for their reactions.

Southgate said on Saturday: ‘Unfortunately, I don’t know how many camps we’ve had in the last four years but I seem to have been talking about this subject every time the team has been together.  

‘I can only reiterate that the players are incredibly mature in the way that they deal with it.

Gareth Southgate has praised England duo Raheem Sterling (left) and Jude Bellingham (right) for their maturity after receiving racist abuse against Hungary on Thursday

Gareth Southgate has praised England duo Raheem Sterling (left) and Jude Bellingham (right) for their maturity after receiving racist abuse against Hungary on Thursday

Sterling (above) received the abuse after scoring the opening goal in a 4-0 England win

Sterling (above) received the abuse after scoring the opening goal in a 4-0 England win

‘I think they feel supported by their team-mates which is very important to them and their team-mates must recognise how challenging it can be for our black players and how disappointing it is that in the modern world we continue to have to answer these questions because of the incidents that happen.’

Hungary were already charged by European football’s governing body UEFA for racist chanting during Euro 2020 matches against France and Portugal in Budapest earlier this year.

Hungary were ordered to play two matches behind closed doors, but the sanctions do not come into force until next year’s Nations League because the World Cup qualifiers fall under FIFA competition. 

Bellingham had monkey noises made at him from the Budapest crowd while he was preparing

Bellingham had monkey noises made at him from the Budapest crowd while he was preparing

Bellingham took to Twitter to demand action and thank fans for the support he has received

Bellingham took to Twitter to demand action and thank fans for the support he has received 

Article 66 of FIFA’s disciplinary code allows confederations such as UEFA to request the extension of a sanction into FIFA competition, but UEFA sources insisted its own regulations prevent it from doing so.

And after England midfielder Bellingham called for the football authorities to bring in stronger punishments for countries found guilty of racist chanting, Southgate maintained that his squad will continue the stance of taking the knee before matches, a gesture in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Southgate added: ‘We can only continue taking the stance that we have done and hope that we continue to send the right messages not only to people in football but across society and that everybody keeps progressing. 

‘We know that it’s going to take time and that it feels very slow for everybody but we have to keep fighting that battle.

Southgate revealed his'disappointment' over the fact the modern world still has these issues

Southgate revealed his ‘disappointment’ over the fact the modern world still has these issues

‘We’re better prepared for it now unfortunately because we’ve had to be. So we’ve learned a lot from the experiences of the past and most importantly in our minds is to be there to support our players.

‘There’s also a balance there that the lads want to get on with their football, and as much as it’s important that we talk about these things publicly, they don’t want that to be the uppermost conversation they want their performances on the pitch to be recognised.

‘When they played as well as they did the other night they want to be talking about that, they recognise their wider responsibilities and at the right moments they want to affect those things but when they’re playing, they want to be judged on their playing.’

The England boss praised the reaction of his entire squad after Thursday night's challenges

The England boss praised the reaction of his entire squad after Thursday night’s challenges

It is not the first time England players have been racially abused in relation to an international game. The team famously threatened to walk off the pitch during a clash against Montenegro in 2019 following persistent vile chanting aimed at Sterling and Danny Rose.

The Three Lions also stopped a Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria in October 2019 on two occasions after racist chanting was heard towards Sterling and then-debutant Tyrone Mings. 

And after their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all sent racist messages on social media after missing crucial spot kicks. 

The Three Lions players were also booed when they took the knee right before the match in Budapest on Thursday. 

The Three Lions players were booed by the Hungary fans for taking the knee before kick-off

The Three Lions players were booed by the Hungary fans for taking the knee before kick-off

Officials from the organisers had been in attendance in Budapest to film any incidents of racist abuse and to observe if supporters booed England taking the knee. Crowds had jeered Republic of Ireland players for making the anti-racism gesture in June. 

On Friday, Hungary’s foreign minister hit back against complaints of racist abuse directed at Sterling and Bellingham by comparing it to England supporters booing the Italian national anthem before the Euro 2020 final in July. 

Peter Sziijarto posted a video on Facebook of the Italy anthem being jeered on July 11 in London with the caption: ‘England players are complaining about last night’s ‘hostile atmosphere in Budapest…. Did they make similar comments back then?’ 

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