English Premiership

Guardiola warns of rising tide of racism in society

Pep Guardiola (AP)
Pep Guardiola (AP)

Manchester - Pep Guardiola would consider taking his Manchester City players off the field in protest if any of his stars were the victims of racist abuse.

City star Raheem Sterling spoke out after he and a number of his England teammates were racially abused in an impressive 5-1 victory over Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday, calling for stadium bans.

Guardiola said society's ills are to blame, but warned against the concerning rise of racist incidents at football games, including in England.

Sterling was also the subject of alleged racist abuse at Chelsea in December, while Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a banana skin thrown at him in the North London derby against Tottenham in the same month.

"I think in Europe it is, not in football, getting worse," said Guardiola when asked about the issue. "I am a human being and it's not nice.

Asked if City would walk off, Guardiola said: "We could do that, yeah."

But, he added, "I'm not alone in the club, or part of the club. I would have to involve the club, the chairmen and CEOs and my captain and the team and the players, if we all together decide we can signal to do it, why not?

"The situation changes when you do something, if not it's impossible and the situation is always the same," said Guardiola. "That is why when people like him (Sterling) or other cases express what they express it's good for our future, for our society to do it.

"The problem is not about the football itself, it's the society, what is happening in Europe? The extreme right side is going there and the message they are sending to win elections, to win votes, we are not safe.

"It's not a football problem, it's society itself."

Guardiola was talking before City's return to action in the Premier League, following the international break, with a visit to struggling Fulham.

With his club still active in three competitions - and on course for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies - the City manager will welcome back Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany from recent injury lay-offs.

And Guardiola has been further boosted by a solid period of training from French international Benjamin Mendy, who has been limited to just 11 minutes of first team football since November 11 because of persistent knee problems, although his manager will allow him to return to action at his own pace.

"Yes, of course he needs time," said Guardiola. "He trained the last three days and the reaction in his knee is really good."

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