UEFA president Michel Platini hinted Tuesday that European football’s governing body would come down hard on Serbia if claims that several England under-21 players were subjected to racist abuse there are proven. “We’ll collate all the reports, we have the television pictures, the disciplinary committee is already on it,” Platini said on the sidelines of a Euro 2016 organising committee meeting here. “But we have already dished out a yellow card to Serbia (for previous instances of trouble). “Racism is a problem that affects us massively. We’re fighting it, and that’s what I replied to the British prime minister, who wrote to me.” England Under-21s’ 1-0 victory over Serbia in Krusevac last week, which saw them qualify for next year’s European Championship in Israel, was overshadowed by apparent racism from the stands towards England full-back Danny Rose.
The Serbian federation (FSS) issued a statement “absolutely” denying there was any racism at all and branding the England players’ behaviour “vulgar”. UEFA charged both the English and Serbian associations for the improper conduct of their players, and the Serbs for “alleged racist chanting” by fans. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was said to have been “appalled” at the scenes from the match in Krusevac. Cameron wanted “tough sanctions” against Serbian football if racism is proven, according to a spokesman. The UEFA disciplinary committee will meet on November 22 to decide what, if any, punishment needs to be meted out.
Witsel finding his feet at feuding Zenit
Zenit St Peterburg’s 40-million-euro rookie Axel Witsel insisted Tuesday he was settling into his new life in Russia, despite a recent internal fued in the club after his big-money signing. Zenit’s September signing of Brazilian striker Hulk for a reported 60 million euros and Witsel’s arrival sparked a salary dispute among the other players with Russian national captain Igor Denisov dropping into Zenit’s youth squad. But Witsel believes he is starting to gel with his teammates. “Though I haven’t spent much time in Saint Petersburg, I’m already playing well with my new teammates,” insisted the midfielder, who joined the reigning Russian champions from Portuguese giants Benfica. “Our mutual understanding is growing day by day. Besides, I noticed that my personal skills are also on the rise here in Zenit.” Witsel, who missed a clear scoring chance in Saturday’s 1-0 home win against Kuban Krasnodar, is confident he will soon get on the scoresheet as the club look to move up from their current fourth place in the league table. “It was a good shot and I was a couple of inches shorter than needed to score. It’s a pity but I believe I will open my scoring account in Zenit pretty soon.” Meanwhile, the 23-year-old also said that he was enjoying some new adventures in his adopted city including the Russian banya — a hot sauna and freezing plunge pool — as well as ice hockey. “The Russian baths are great! Super! I really love it,” Witsel said. “The ice hockey match beween the local team and the visitors Ufa was really fascinating. I think I will attend ice hockey matches here together with my teammates on a regular basis.”