June 23, 2007

Uefa tells referee to abandon U-21 final if racist abuse erupts

Uefa is willing to have the European Under-21 Championship final abandoned if there is a repeat of the racist behaviour from Serbian supporters which marred their group match against England.

The referee Damir Skomina has been reminded that he has the power to call an instant halt to tonight's match between Serbia and Holland, while European football's governing body has warned that it will operate a policy of zero tolerance against racist behaviour.

Uefa was forced to make an anti-racism announcement during England's 2-0 win against Serbia last Sunday, when the Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha was subjected to racist chanting and gestures from a section of supporters.

Serbia have now contacted their supporters to warn them of the possible consequences if any of Holland's black players are abused.

"They [Serbia] have gone out of their way to ensure a few idiots don't spoil the final," said Uefa's director of communications, William Gaillard. "Our president has made it clear that zero tolerance applies to the final. There is no problem for the referee to stop the game and there would be sanctions as well. We are prepared to take drastic measures. We hope it won't come to that but we are ready. This is supposed to be a celebration of football and we will not tolerate any racism."

The Dutch are concerned that the tournament could be overshadowed by the issue of racism while their coach, Foppe de Haan, has been quoted as describing Serbians as "a bit racist". The president of the Serbian Football Association, Zvezdan Terzic, has urged Serbian supporters to "control themselves".

Speaking to the Serbian TV station B92, he said: "For all their enthusiasm and patriotism, our fans must understand that outbursts of nationalism and racism will only cause damage to our football and our country's reputation."

Holland's captain, Ron Vlaar, will miss the final after a knee ligament strain and is likely to be replaced by Arnold Kruiswijk. The defender limped off during Wednesday's semi-final against England which ended in a 13-12 penalty shoot-out win.


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