GARY Bennett has praised Sunderland’s on-loan defender Danny Rose for the way he handled the abuse he received at the hands of Serb racists on England Under-21 duty last night.
And the former Sunderland skipper says Uefa must find a punishment that genuinely hurts Serbia in the wake of the racist and violent scenes at the final whistle which marred the victory of Stuart Pearce’s men in Krusevac.
Rose was controversially sent off after the match finished reportedly for reacting angrily to racist abuse, as missiles were thrown from the crowd and players from both sides were involved in scuffles.
Bennett, active in the Show Racism The Red Card and Kick Racism Out Of Football campaigns, told the Echo: “Danny Rose was clearly distraught at the final whistle and I can perfectly understand why.
“Under the circumstances I thought he handled himself as well as he could because he could easily have over-reacted and got caught up in the violence.
“As it was, he appears to have received a red card for kicking away a ball, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the authorities look at that dismissal again because no one should have to endure that sort of provocation anymore during a game of football.
“It’s horrible stuff and it’s something a previous generation of black players went through before action started to be taken on it.
“But someone like Danny has probably never experienced anything like that before in his life and should never have to again.”
Serbia has faced a wave of condemnation in the wake of last night’s incidents and it’s not the first time the Eastern European country has been in the dock for racism.
A match between the two countries at the 2007 European Under-21 Championship in Holland was marred when former Sunderland loan defender Nedum Onuoha was racially abused.
Serbia were fined £16,000 by European governing body Uefa after that incident, but Bennett says far harsher action now needs to be taken.
“It’s absolutely pointless fining the Serb FA,” he said. “No matter how big the fine might be, it’ll get paid, they’ll shrug it off and nothing will change.
“The punishment has to be something that will hurt them and, in terms of that, you have to be looking at banning the country from competitions to make an example of them.
“Personally, I think they’ve got to go further, they’ve got to look at a ban, but that’s also got to be coupled with clear evidence that they are targeting the racists involved to make sure they’ve got no place in football stadiums in the future.
“Long-term, educating people is the key, but, in the short term, you’ve got to show that you’re absolutely not going to tolerate that sort of behaviour.”
Bennett’s comments were echoed by former England captain Paul Ince, working as a pundit on ESPN and whose son Thomas was playing in the match.
He said: “It is disgraceful – there is no excuse for the scenes we have just seen; there were punches being thrown.
“If it was me they would be kicked out for the next five tournaments, European, World Cups.”
The Football Association, meanwhile, has made an immediate complaint to Uefa about the chaos and abuse, prompted by Sunderland striker Connor Wickham’s injury-time goal which clinched a 2-0 aggregate success.
The goal prompted a hail of missiles from the crowd and scuffles broke out moments later with Serbian supporters, players and other officials appearing to get involved while Rose and other black players were abused.