Ipswich: Grim echoes of Town’s ordeal in Serbia

TUESDAY night’s ugly scenes in Serbia following England Under-21’s victory echoed disgraceful scenes when the Blues played there a decade ago.

There were violent scenes at the final whistle on Tuesday night as England Under-21s’ Euro 2013 qualifier against Serbia in Krusevac descended into chaos.

The shameful scenes have prompted the FA and Prime Minister David Cameron to urge UEFA to take strong action.

However, Ipswich fans may well have cast their minds back ten years – to an afternoon when Marcus Bent, Finidi George, Jermaine Wright and Darren Bent were subjected to racial taunts during the Blues’ 1-0 UEFA Cup defeat of FK Sartid in Serbia on October 3, 2002.

A full house of 16,500 turned out for the biggest match in the history of the then Yugoslav club, a steelworks company team in Smederevo.

Ipswich Star columnist Dave Allard, who covered the game on the day, said: “It was clear that the chants were directed towards Finidi George, Marcus Bent and Jermaine Wright.

“At one stage a banana was thrown on to the pitch and then a banana skin was thrown on, which Finidi threw away.

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“I spoke to Finidi afterwards and he said ‘It was awful, I just want to get out of here’.

“There were a lot of monkey chants from one corner of the ground in particular.

“I spoke to Jermaine Wright and he said the worst offenders were in that corner and whenever a black player moved in that direction they could immediately hear chants.

“It was a night to forget.”

Lifelong Town fan Barry Kent, 59, of Grange Road, Ipswich, was among the Blues faithful who travelled to the game.

“Certainly the black players were abused,” he said. “Every time they touched the ball without fail there would be monkey chants.

“This happened throughout and I would say around 30 per cent or 40pc of the home fans were making the chants.

“When Marcus scored he was subjected to an increased amount of racial abuse. It was very audible and very uncomfortable.

“Everyone was shocked by it. Everyone was talking about it on the coach back home. It was awful.

“I would have no problem with going back to Serbia tomorrow, but if I was a black person I would certainly think twice about it.”

UEFA subsequently agreed to investigate claims that Bent and George were subjected to racist taunts. FK Sartid were later handed a 17,100 euro (�13,800) fine.

In April, Manchester City were fined �24,740 for delaying the second half of their Europa League last 16 fixture against Sporting Lisbon, while Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner was fined �80,000 for unauthorised sponsorship in June this year.

“The authorities need to enforce stricter sanctions and if that means banning teams from World Cups and Champions Leagues then so be it,” added Mr Kent.

“[UEFA president Michel] Platini needs to take action and stop pontificating. There is no place for it in today’s society. They need to stand up and be counted for.”

Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Clarke Carlisle has backed calls for Serbia to receive a “significant” international ban after the “utterly deplorable” scenes on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of Kick It Out, which challenges discrimination in football and communities, said: “[Tuesday night’s] events must be acted upon.”

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