Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino would have no hesitation in taking his players off the pitch if they suffered racist abuse, insisting “nothing is more important than to stop that”.
Spurs star Danny Rose was among those abused by Montenegro fans during England’s 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win on Monday, with the defender subjected to monkey chants.
The Football Association described the incidents in Podgorica, where Callum Hudson-Odoi and Raheem Sterling were also targeted, as “abhorrent”.
Governing body UEFA subsequently opened disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro, including a charge of racist behaviour.
Reaction has been strong from within the game, with Pochettino joining a growing list of managers who say they would stop proceedings if he witnessed abuse.
“If I feel the abuse and I hear it, then out. Stop. Stop,” Pochettino confirmed. “There is nothing more important than to stop that.
“A game you can win or you can lose. You can win the three points or lose the three points. I don’t know. But we cannot be hypocrites with that.
“There is nothing more important in this life to protect the values and principles and no one can abuse. No one deserves to be abused.
“When this type of situation happens, football is not important, you know. If that happens and I am conscious about that, I am the first to say, ‘Stop, we are not going to play. Come on inside. Go off.’
“Because football is not important. The most important thing is that you cannot make someone feel and treat them like that.”
Pochettino believes the attention drawn to the abuse footballers receive could help people intervene if racism occurs in everyday life.
“It was so clear because it was on TV and we could see but how many people suffer abuse in everyday life in different countries, on the street, and no one knows?” Pochettino added.
“That is why all my support is to them, and to the players and all the people that maybe are going to see me and say, ‘Oh, I feel the same. I’m going to help if something happens on the street. I’m going to stop that’.
“Because some people see some abuse on the street and they don’t want to be involved.
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“But maybe with that, you are more conscious and sensitive and you are going to be involved and try to stop. I think every single situation that can help that, which is in our hands, we need to be there.”
Pochettino takes his side to Anfield on Sunday for a vital game in their quest to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Liverpool were in the enviable position of being able to spend £70million on an area they felt needed improving when Virgil Van Dijk signed last January – something Pochettino would love to be able to do.
Some people baulked at the fee required for the Dutchman, but the Spurs boss says Liverpool have been proved right.
“He is a very good player,” he said. “He signed 14 months ago and it made a good point.
“When a team like Liverpool need to improve their team in a certain area, people said it was crazy to pay £70m for a centre-back.
“But they were right. They picked Van Dijk, because at that moment they believed he was the best centre-back in England who could make them better, and they were right.
“The people who believed other things have now been shown that Liverpool were right.
“But if you are going to sign the player who is going to improve your team, then it is not a lot of money. Because to win a Champions League or a Premier League, it is cheaper to spend this type of money.”