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Gareth Southgate warns his England stars about aggravating hostile crowds after Hungary match

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Gareth Southgate says England’s players will not take a step back in fight against racism after Hungary incidents but the Three Lions boss has warned his stars about aggravating hostile crowds

  • England’s stars suffered racist abuse during their 4-0 win in Hungary this week
  • Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were victims of abuse from the home fans
  • Declan Rice feigned drinking from a cup thrown on the pitch after Sterling’s goal
  • Gareth Southgate has warned his stars about aggravating hostile supporters
  • England’s next away opponents Poland say they have no fears about racism 


Gareth Southgate insists his England team will continue to speak out on racism and political issues in the run-up to Qatar 2022 but has warned his players to be mindful of aggravating hostile crowds or giving opposition players extra motivation.

His team face Andorra in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley today and then travel to Poland, with the Polish insisting there will be no racist incidents or crowd problems in Warsaw on Wednesday. 

The England manager’s warning comes after Declan Rice picked up one of the plastic glasses hurled at the team in Hungary on Thursday night and jokingly feigned drinking from it in front of the Hungarian ultras, some of whom had also racially abused England players.

Southgate, preparing for the team’s first return to Wembley since losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy, insisted his team would always be prepared to take on racists and answer questions on political issues — and appreciated that Rice was showing light-hearted defiance.

But he emphasised that the players need to ensure they maintain their composure as they take on the wider ills of the game.

Southgate said: ‘I think we needed to be a little bit careful in how our interaction with the crowd was the other day. 

Gareth Southgate has warned his England players about aggravating hostile crowds in future

Gareth Southgate has warned his England players about aggravating hostile crowds in future

The Three Lions players tackled racist abuse during their 4-0 win over Hungary on Thursday

The Three Lions players tackled racist abuse during their 4-0 win over Hungary on Thursday

‘We all recognise that certain things that happened weren’t acceptable but also we ran a little bit of a risk of inflaming some of those situations.

‘I think the players managed that quite well but I think the boys have to have at the back of their minds that humility.

‘We were playing well and we got a good result but let’s keep our professionalism and keep our focus. We are going to have to play these teams again and we don’t want to give them any additional motivation by any of our actions.’

Despite the comments, Southgate retains full confidence in Rice, appreciating that the extrovert midfielder is key character in the squad. ‘Declan is usually in most memes that get posted on social media in one way or another,’ he said.

Declan Rice (right) feigned drinking form a cupthrown onto the pitch after the first goal

Declan Rice (right) feigned drinking form a cupthrown onto the pitch after the first goal

But Southgate insisted there would be no backing away from the issues embraced by the England team, with the squad’s commitment to taking the knee before games reinforced by the booing they received at friendly matches in Middlesbrough in June and by the Hungarian crowd on Thursday night.

Southgate said: ‘We understand people have their own views. We can only reiterate that the reason we do it was because of what we saw the other night and the power of that message. We knew we might get the response in Budapest that we got for it but we were determined to do it anyway.

‘And even more determined that that’s a message that needs to get out there. I can only reiterate why we’re doing it.

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 would be easy for us to duck questions but we don’t. We know that we can make a difference in the positions that we hold and with the status that the players have.’

Poland have tried to give assurances to England players they won’t face a repeat of the racism in Hungary.

The Polish team will not take the knee before kick-off but officials are confident they don’t need to take extra precautions for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier.

Polish FA spokesperson Jakub Kwiatkowski said: ‘National team matches are attended by different fans than league games and we don’t expect any racist behaviour. We haven’t had any racism at international games for many years. At our matches, we have normal fans and families, not any hooligans.’

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