Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was subjected to ‘monkey noises’ during an away game at Tottenham yesterday as pundit Gary Neville blamed political leaders for fuelling hatred and the footballers’ union called for a government inquiry into racism.
The Premier League fixture was marred by accusations from the defender Antonio that he was the subject of racial abuse from a Spurs fan during the second half of the match in the latest of a string of incidents to shame English football.
Speaking on Sky Sports after the contest, Neville took aim at political leaders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn for ‘accepting racism’ in their parties – adding that it was not enough to blame the problem on a few bad individuals.
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger appeared to suggest he was racially abused vs Tottenham
Rudiger made a monkey gesture as he gave an indication of the abuse he said he received
‘I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago that we have just had a General Election in this country where the leaders of both main parties are accused constantly over the past month of fuelling racism and accepting racism in their parties,’ Neville said.
‘If it is accepted in the highest office in the country then we aren’t talking at a micro level, we are talking at an enormous level.
‘It is the same here today, which you could say is down to one individual person but it is a far bigger problem than that and something needs to happen quickly.
‘Ultimately we need to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it is happening.’
Sky Sports host David Jones then intervened with a disclaimer: ‘I am compelled to say that those are the opinions of Gary Neville and not Sky Sports. That is my duty.’
When a visibly annoyed Neville asked whether or not he agreed, Jones responded: ‘Whether I do or I don’t is irrelevant. I’m here to try and hold a balanced debate.’
After the program, Jones tweeted an apology.
‘I’m so sorry to have spoiled what was such an important discussion on racism tonight. I had to intervene when Gary suggested the two main political parties were to blame – I didn’t make that clear enough. For that I apologise unreservedly,’ Jones said.
‘I would never purposefully shut down a discussion on racism. I’ve worked for Sky for over 20 years and know they share my view that racism of any kind should not be tolerated. That is not a debate. And that’s why I’m so very disappointed and sorry tonight.’
Chelsea won 2-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Willian scoring both goals.
The abuse reported by Rudiger came after he was kicked in the chest by Tottenham forward Son Heung-min, who was sent off as a result.
Rudiger, who is black, was seen putting his hands under his armpits – seemingly mimicking a monkey gesture – in the 63rd minute.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta had been informed of the racism by Rudiger. That led to referee Anthony Taylor ordering the stadium announcements, implementing a procedure initially formed by FIFA to deal with discrimination in games.
Later explaining what happened, he told Sky Sports: ‘Toni came to me and told me he heard some racist songs toward him, so I reported to the ref immediately and left it to the ref to do his job.
‘We are very concerned and very aware of this behaviour and we need to stop it. Now I hope everything gets clear and we eradicate it as soon as possible. It’s an issue not only in football but in life and all together we need to work towards the eradication of the problem.’
Neville urged the Professional Footballers’ Association to do more to tackle the scourge of racism in the game, and it later sent a series of tweets reacting to what had happened.
‘Now more than ever we must unite and stand strong and together to confront, challenge and eradicate racist abuse in our stadiums and in our country,’ the organisation posted.
‘We believe that the time has come for all governing bodies to unite collectively to end this abuse.
‘The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism and the rise in hate crime within football and immediate and urgent action from an All-Party Group at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to address this urgent issue.’
Rudiger tweeted: ‘Biiiiiiig Wiiin! #NoToRacism #PleaseGetSomeBasicEducation #AlwaysBelieve #Hustle #cleansheet’.
His team-mate Willian also posted, saying: ‘I’m very happy for our team performance in the derby today, but at the same time I’m very disappointed by the manifestations of racism during the game. We cannot accept this! We are together my bro’.
Neville had also reiterated the call for direct action against racism by players walking off the pitch – and admitted he was ‘ashamed’ not to have done so in support of former England team-mate Ashley Cole.
‘We have a racism problem in the Premier League in England. And the Premier League have to step up, they hide behind the FA on this issue,’ Neville said.
‘Maybe we have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it is happening. That is the only way I can see it happening.
‘I did not walk off the pitch when Ashley (Cole) was abused 15 years ago, and you might argue that now it’s okay for me to sit here in my ivory tower of a commentary box and suggest that players should walk off the pitch.
‘Ultimately I would be ashamed of myself for not doing (it) 15 years ago as I would be absolutely proud of players for doing it now to empower them to think, do something about it and take it into your own hands.’
He continued: ‘The PFA need to act because it’s ultimately their job to protect players in their own country and they should protect players if the football associations don’t do it.’
Rudiger appeared to report racist chanting from Tottenham fans during the second half
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville suggested players should walk off if they are racially abused
Neville played in the England team with Cole – who, along with Shaun Wright-Phillips, was subjected to racist abuse during a 2004 friendly against Spain in Madrid.
Cole, also speaking on Sky Sports, feels the current anti-discrimination campaigns do not go far enough.
‘You have a T-shirt in your place (in the dressing room). They are like, ‘Put that on for the warm-up, then you can take it off’,’ the 39-year-old said. ‘People don’t really care.’
He added: ‘Why do they wait until something happens in the game to make the announcements? I don’t think it is enough – and is it going to stop? It is kind of my fault as well that when I was abused I did not come out, but I just felt I didn’t have enough support.
‘Raheem (Sterling) has changed that, he has the people on his side, whereas I did not feel I had that.’
Tottenham swiftly vowed to investigate the matter and take the strongest possible action against any guilty parties, with Chelsea quick to welcome their London rivals’ stance.
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard insisted he would be ‘100 per cent behind’ his players if they wanted to walk off the pitch amid any future racism storm.
He said: ‘In terms of walking off the pitch, it would depend what the players were feeling and saying.
‘But I would be absolutely, 100 per cent behind them and I’m sure it would be a group decision. But we’re not there yet, so it’s hypothetical to a degree.
‘All I know is that Toni Rudiger said he heard some racist chanting or comments, and I haven’t had chance for an individual conversation with Toni.’
Frank Lampard would be ‘100 per cent behind’ his players if they wanted to walk off the pitch
Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out said in a statement yesterday evening: ‘We are aware of the alleged racist incidents at today’s game between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
‘We applaud the action of referee Anthony Taylor in following step one of the protocol and the ensuing steps taken by Tottenham Hotspur in repeating the stadium announcements.
‘We have offered our support to both of the clubs and also to Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.’
The game was hit by several other unsavoury incidents, including Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had a bottle thrown at him by Spurs fans, while Son Heung-min was sent off for raising his boot in a clash with Rudiger.
Gary Neville suggested that much more needs to be done in order to tackle racism in games
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said he was ‘disappointed’ with the incident involving Rudiger
Former England defender Ashley Cole admitted he had ‘a lot of abuse’ from the stands during his time as a player.
‘You try to block it out, but obviously he (Rudiger) has heard something,’ Cole said on Sky Sports.
‘Players keep going to the referee, but we see the same things happening.’
‘People around them need to be grassing them up, getting them thrown out and banned.’
Cole added: ‘No one knows the answer. I don’t understand how you stop it to be honest.’
An FA statement said: ‘We are aware of the incident in the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. We are working with the match officials, the clubs and the relevant authorities to fully establish the facts and take the appropriate steps.’
Chief executive of Show Racism the Red Card, Ged Grebby, hit out at the ‘disgraceful’ incident at Tottenham and called for a swift response.
Ex-Chelsea defender Ashley Cole said that ‘people need educating’ over the issue of racism
Neville suggested that England should have walked off the pitch when Cole (pictured, middle) and other England players were racially abused during a game against Spain in 2004