by Richard Brook

The ongoing row regarding the treatment of England Under-21 international Danny Rose, during the European Championship qualification play-off in Serbia, took a deeply disappointing turn for the worse yesterday. Earlier this week the Serbian FA had already taken the stance that there was no racist abuse of the black players in England’s Under-21 team stating; “(The) FA of Serbia absolutely refuses (sic) and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match”. This assertion in itself would be laughable, were racism not such a serious topic, and so hurtful and offensive to victims and to wider society. The Serbian FA’s stance was dismissed by myself and others as unsustainable to anyone who saw footage of the match.

Presumably in response to such doubt the Serbian FA have launched a bizarre and ill-conceived smear campaign against Danny Rose. The Serbian FA appear to have produced and are certainly promoting through their own website, an internet video clip which seems to seek to discredit Rose’s assertion that he was racially abused, by Serbians in the stands, every time he touched the ball, throughout Tuesday’s 1-0 victory.

The video is titled “Danny Rose is lying to whom?”, and is posted by Fudbalski savez Srbije, which is what the Serbian FA is known as within the countries own borders, additionally the video can be accessed via a link on the organisation’s official website.

This odd piece of propaganda, an apparent attempt to deny what all interested parties already saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, is a compilation of clips of Danny Rose during the game. Whether by careful selection of clips or by more nefarious means, during the video it is indeed difficult to detect so-called “monkey chants”. Alongside the video is a caption displayed that reads; “As you can see in this video, during the UEFA Under-21 play-off game, there was no unsportsmanlike cheering and insulting opposing players on racial grounds”.

It is a caption that I cannot read without visualising either a pocket watch swinging in front of my eyes, or a light being shone directly into my eyes by a torturer. It is unclear who the intended audience of the clip is but it unimaginable that the people of England are going to, without duress, have their opinions swayed as to what they already know to be true from sources with less of a conflict of interests in reporting the matter.  A six minute piece of video footage cannot possibly purport to accurately reflect the truth of what went on during the 90 minute football match. Anyone who has seen their side beat Manchester United, then watched the highlights on Match Of The Day can attest to that fact.

Irrespective of the incompleteness of the footage, in the clips that are used their maybe no audible monkey chants but whistling can clearly be heard every time the ball goes near Danny Rose. This incredulous attempt at a whitewash, if you can forgive the term in this context, is patronising beyond belief. To be so literal as to be effectively saying that ‘Danny Rose was not the victim of racist chanting every time he touched the ball, here is six minutes lets not talk about the other 84, and by the way he was relentlessly whistled during those six minutes’, is missing the point to a stunning degree.

Further to this, during the footage, Rose is seen retrieving the ball for a throw in and making a hand gesture, like a mouth opening and closing, seemingly indicating that the crowd are giving him some verbal abuse. Interestingly, in assessing the credibility of this video, there is no footage of the last quarter of an hour of the game. There is also, crucially and unbelievably, for any video purporting to address this issue, no footage whatsoever of the scenes after the final whistle, when Serbian players and fans attacked England players and staff, including Rose, and when the monkey chanting was its loudest. In my opinion, in assessing this video’s credibility – it has none.

It is arguable that this video is, if anything, harmful to the Serbian cause. If they think that they are showing how to appropriately treat a black person, by whistling every time they look at him, when they noticeably are not doing this to other players in the same set of clips then that is a pretty damning indictment of their attitude. Managing to reign in the urge make monkey noises for a small portion of the match and instead having replaced it with a different form of discrimination hardly makes them the last bastion of the multicultural society.

When I wrote, earlier in the week, about the abuse that Danny Rose suffered, I left it open as to what should happen to Serbia as a footballing nation, instead reporting what those in positions of power, or relevance felt should happen. Tonight let it be clear that I believe that Serbia should be banned from international competition as now we are not talking about a few thousand paying punters chanting racist abuse, we are talking about the complicity of their national football association and that is an appalling set of circumstances.

The video and the accompanying text make it clear that the Serbian FA do not take racism sufficiently seriously to warrant a place in international football. Teams featuring black players do not deserve to have to put up with such a situation. It is difficult to know whether in disseminating this propaganda the Serbian FA are displaying a complete ignorance of what the issue actually is, whether they are aware there is an issue and are chancing their arm at getting away with it or whether they simply are apologists for racism.

Whichever is true, in the light of this video, the Serbian FA have no business calling anyone else inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar, least of all Danny Rose.

Witness the bizarre piece of propaganda below…