Beckham, Owen plead fans to behave

David Beckham issued a warning to England's soccer fans that their violent behaviour could get the team kicked out of the European Championship.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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England captain David Beckham on Monday issued a televised warning to the nation's football fans that their xenophobic, violent behaviour could get the team kicked out of the European Championship. In a recorded message broadcast on national networks ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Serbia-Montenegro at Leicester, the Manchester United player - who misses the game because of a fractured wrist - said hooligans were putting the team at risk. Football's European governing body, UEFA, has already fined the English Football Association after fans jeered the Turkish anthem and invaded the field during a Euro 2004 qualifying victory at Sunderland's Stadium of Light in April. Troublemakers also fought outside the stadium and in the centre of Sunderland. UEFA warned that any repeats could lead to a ban from the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal. "Ninety per cent of the fans are absolutely amazing, it's just that 10 per cent that just need to stay in control," Beckham said in a message taped when England played a friendly in South Africa on May 22. "It is going to get us in a lot of trouble, we have been warned already. We don't want to face elimination from the competition, that is the last thing we want," he added. "Racism, violence and jumping on the pitch has to be put out of the game. There are children at the game who get scared. Respect has to be shown to the opposition's national anthem, booing a national anthem is disrespectful. It shouldn't happen, we wouldn't like it if it happened to us," Beckham elaborated. The Manchester United midfielder, who is in the United States with his pop star wife Victoria, will also miss the June 11 Euro 2004 qualifying game at home to Slovakia because of suspension. Beckham broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist taking a heavy fall in England's 2-1 victory over South Africa in Durban. Man United has said he will be fit for their pre-season tour of the United States in late July. In his absence, Michael Owen will captain the team against Serbia and Slovakia. The Liverpool striker also called on fans to behave. "Our captain and our manager and everyone at the FA have been stressing the importance of behaving well," Owen told a news conference. "We want the fans to get excited but we want them to keep it within the rules and regulations of going to a football match. It's the second biggest competition in the world after the World Cup to play in a European Championship. It would be a huge disappointment (to be banned) not just for England but for European football," he added. (AP)