By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s joy at qualifying for Euro 2020 thanks to a 2-0 win away to Romania on Friday was tarnished by the racist abuse suffered by their striker Alexander Isak when he replaced Marcus Berg in the 78th minute.
The game was stopped briefly by the referee and an announcement was made over the public address system.
“I heard a number of racist shouts from the stands, and I asked the referee if he heard what was happening. He hadn’t heard anything,” the 20-year-old Isak, whose parents are from Eritrea, told Swedish radio.
“A few minutes later he stopped the game and asked. We had a small discussion, the match went on and I am OK with that, and I’m happy we won. Obviously it hurts, it’s a shame but we were prepared for it.”
Undaunted by the taunting from the stands, Isak continued to seek possession and had the ball at his feet as the final whistle went to confirm Sweden’s qualification as runners-up behind Spain in Group F.
“I don’t let things like that affect me in that way. It’s better to ignore it. There will always be idiots around, it’s better not to give them the attention they are looking for,” the 20-year-old said.
Sweden travel to Stockholm on Saturday ahead of their final group game against Faroe Islands at the Friends Arena on Monday.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Ken Ferris)