Steven Gerrard called for tougher punishments to tackle racism after Glen Kamara was booed during Rangers’ 1-0 defeat against Sparta Prague in the Europa League.
The midfielder was the subject of what UEFA declared to be “racist behaviour” by Ondrej Kudela, who plays for neighbouring Slavia Prague in April, before being subjected to more reported abuse in Thursday’s game.
The crowd was restricted to children and their chaperones after Sparta were sanctioned by UEFA for racially abusing Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, but Gerrard admitted he could hear the booing after watching a replay of the game.
“I’m fully aware now [of the booing] having watched the game back with audio and I’m actually surprised I wasn’t aware of it during the game,” Gerrard told reporters on Friday.
“Sadly, these things keep raising their head far too often and, unfortunately, the punishments are not severe enough.”
Sparta responded with a statement in which they defended their young fans, insisting their actions had been misinterpreted while stating the match will be remembered positively in the club’s history.
“It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism,” the statement said. “Insulting children on the internet and in the media is unacceptable, desperate and ridiculous.
“Stop attacking our children! Our club will proudly defend our children – our future and our pride. Slandering children on the internet is extremely cowardly.
“We are seeing unprecedented xenophobic statements against the Czech Republic, its citizens and even its children on social media.
“You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It’s an impertinence.
“This match will go down in the club’s history in a positive sense. We ask the representatives of Rangers to do their part to stop the xenophobic atmosphere directed towards our children, our beautiful country and its inhabitants.”
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