UEFA to probe claims that Rangers player was racially abused

UEFA will investigate claims that a player from Scottish champion Rangers was racially abused by a Slavia Prague opponent during its Europa League match.

Rangers Glen Kamara (centre) is held back by team-mates as he reacts near the end of the Europa League contest between Rangers and Slavia Prague, at Ibrox Stadium, in Glasgow, on March 18.   -  AP

UEFA will investigate claims that a player from Scottish champion Rangers was racially abused by a Slavia Prague opponent during its Europa League match. Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, who is Black, told manager Steven Gerrard that Ondřej Kúdela uttered a racist remark to him in the closing moments of Slavia’s 2-0 victory at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow on Thursday.

Kúdela approached Kamara during a stoppage in play, covered his mouth with both hands and said something into Kamara’s right ear. The Rangers player reacted by pointing at Kúdela, and both were then separated. Slavia and Kúdela have denied the allegation, with the player saying he used offensive but not racial language.

Rangers called for a “robust and unequivocal” response from UEFA, which on Friday launched an investigation “regarding the incidents that occurred.” It appointed a disciplinary inspector to gather evidence after earlier saying it was awaiting reports of the match officials.

“Further information regarding this investigation will be made available in due course,” UEFA said in a brief statement.

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Stewart Robertson, the Glasgow club’s managing director, said earlier on Friday that the team refuses “to acknowledge any attempt to defend, deflect or deny the abuse Glen Kamara experienced last night. UEFA will be well aware the football world is watching,” Robertson added in a statement.

“We expect a robust and unequivocal response in relation to this incident. It cannot be merely ‘swept under the carpet’ — we are not prepared for Glen Kamara to be yet another statistic. Enough is enough.”

The Rangers statement added that more players “have subsequently received racist, threatening and sickening abuse online.”

After Thursday’s game, Gerrard said he fully supported Kamara.

“I know Glen and I trust him 100 percent and it is extremely disappointing,” Gerrard said. “Something needs to happen quickly, that is above me, but 100 percent whatever happens moving forward I stand next to Glen Kamara.”

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Gerrard, whose team was eliminated with the second-leg loss in the round of 16, described Kamara as being “devastated” by the incident. He said the Finnish player is “a cool, calm kid.” Slavia denied the allegations and claimed Kamara assaulted Kúdela after the game as the Czech team “was not allowed to enter the dressing room. Slavia resolutely denies the disgusting accusation of one of the team captains Ondřej Kúdela of racist behaviour,” the team said in a statement early on Friday.

Kúdela, who is white, acknowledges uttering an expletive but denied it was racial. “It was said in emotions, but I absolutely deny there was anything racist in those words,” Kúdela said as part of the team's statement.

The team said it was denied access to the locker room immediately after the game, and that Kamara threw punches at the 33-year-old defender. “Ondřej Kúdela was assaulted by player Kamara and hit with fists in the head when Rangers manager Steven Gerrard witnessed the incident,” the team said.

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“Even the UEFA representatives who were also present on the site of the incident were shocked by this behaviour.”

UEFA said earlier on Friday that it “is aware of an incident which occurred in the tunnel after the end of the match and which involved some players of both teams.”

Rangers ended the game with nine men. Rangers forward Kemar Roofe was sent off just past the hour mark after his cleat caught goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar in the face and head. Kolar left the game and received 10 stitches.

Kamara received a yellow card in the first half.

After the incident with Kamara, Kúdela was shown a yellow card, as was Rangers defender Connor Goldson. The Czech team advanced 3-1 on aggregate to the quarterfinals.

The Scottish players’ union backed Kamara, saying the incident highlights why players have been taking a knee before games.

“The racist abuse received last night by Glen Kamara, added to the awful incidents earlier this season involving Nir Bitton, Jonathan Afolabi and Alex Dyer, simply shows more than ever that we must continue to fight against the racists that attach themselves to our game,” said Fraser Wishart, chief executive of Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland.