Soccer-Netherlands Wijnaldum wants strong UEFA action against racial abuse

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group C - North Macedonia v Netherlands - Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands - June 21, 2021 Netherlands' Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring their third goal Pool via REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Netherlands captain Georginio Wijnaldum on Thursday called on UEFA to take stronger action against racism and said players subjected to abuse should not have to make a decision on whether to walk off the field in protest or not.

Wijnaldum said he had thought long and hard about leaving the pitch if subjected to racism when the Dutch play at the Puskas Arena in Budapest against the Czech Republic in the Euro 2020 round of 16 on Sunday but was still in two minds.

“I've thought about it very carefully. I previously indicated that I would walk off,” Wijnaldum told a news conference, “but that was easier to say back then, because I had never really run into that problem.

“After that I started to think very hard about it. ‘Gini, you will play in Hungary later in the tournament, what will you do if it happens? What if you play against a weaker team and those fans know that and they antagonise you to get you to walk off the field so that you lose the match?’"

Wijnaldum said the responsibility for action lay with the match officials and European soccer's governing body UEFA.

“I think I will I go to the referee but, to be honest, I’m not sure what my reaction is going to be in the heat of the moment.

“I've never experienced it myself and I hope never to. But if it happens, UEFA must act. They need to realise that if they don't, they are putting a big responsibility on the players.

“UEFA must protect the players. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the players," Wijnaldum added.

“Some players have walked off in the past but if you ask them if they felt supported, I think they’ll say they weren't.

“If the referee, or maybe the opponents, jump in, then the signal is stronger. That’s what I’m thinking right now but I’m not ruling out walking off the field if something like that happens on Sunday."

UEFA are investigating alleged racist incidents at the Puskas Arena, where France’s Kylian Mbappe was said to have been subjected to abuse in Saturday's 1-1 Group F draw with Hungary.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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