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Hungary to pay fine, play one match behind closed doors

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Hungary’s fans throw cups of beer at England’s forward Raheem Sterling as he celebrates scoring the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification Group I football match on September 2. AFP

Hungary to pay fine, play one match behind closed doors

Hungary must play two matches behind closed doors, with one suspended for two years, and were fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($216,635) by FIFA over their fans’ racist chants at England players during a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.

Hungarian fans subjected Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham to monkey chants during England’s 4-0 romp on September 2.

England players were also pelted with cups thrown from the hostile Puskas Arena crowd, with many home fans also booing Southgate’s team when they took the knee before kick-off to show support for equality.

Missiles and a flare were also thrown onto the pitch.

“After analysing and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, specifically the seriousness of the incidents (racist words and actions, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, blocked stairways), the (FIFA Disciplinary) Committee decided that the MLSZ would play its next two home matches in FIFA competitions without spectators, the second match being suspended for a probationary period of two years,” read the FIFA statement.

“In addition, the Committee imposed a fine of CHF 200,000.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called on FIFA to take “strong action” the day after the match.

But Hungarian football chiefs robustly defended the “vast majority” of fans and Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto warned Johnson against “hypocrisy” after the Euro 2020 final at Wembley was marred by booing and crowd trouble.

On Tuesday, though, the Hungarian FA said racist behaviour should be “deeply condemned”, but insisted the punishments meted out by FIFA do not “penalise the real perpetrators”.

“Behaviour which was proved to be racist against players, is to be deeply condemned,” the MLSZ said in a statement.

‘Counterproductive’ ban

It is not the first time that Hungary has found itself under the spotlight over fan misbehaviour.

In July, European football’s governing body UEFA ordered the team to play their next three games behind closed doors, with one match suspended for two years, after finding supporters guilty of discriminatory behaviour during Euro 2020.

However, the ban did not come into effect for the World Cup qualifier against England because it is a FIFA competition.

“The MLSZ still believes that punishing a crowd which creates a good atmosphere in a 60,000-capacity stadium and the organising association, which implements all reasonable measures, is not a fair move, and is instead counterproductive,” the MLSZ added.

“The need to take action against racism is acknowledged and supported by the MLSZ, but it is also clear that the disciplinary rules and decisions of UEFA and FIFA do not penalise the real perpetrators and are not effective in their current form.”

England manager Gareth Southgate has had to deal with previous episodes of racist behaviour towards his team – Euro 2020 qualifiers in Montenegro and Bulgaria were tarnished by similar incidents.

And Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the victims of online racist abuse after missing penalties in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy in July.

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