Sparta Prague have said that their young fans are being attacked and subjected to “unfounded allegations of racism” after the controversial treatment of Rangers player Glen Kamara during their Europa League match.
The game in Prague was originally to be played in an empty stadium after UEFA punished the club for supporters racially abusing a player in a previous European game, but the governing body relented and allowed a crowd of schoolchildren with a small number of adult chaperones.
During the match there was repeated booing of Kamara, who was racially abused earlier this year by Ondrej Kudela, a player for Sparta’s city rivals Slavia and the Czech national team.
Photographers captured images of children holding a poster in support of Kudela, who was banned for ten games for abusing Kamara in the match at Ibrox in April.
Rangers have complained to UEFA about the treatment of Kamara in the Letna Stadium on Thursday, and Steven Gerrard has called for tougher action on racism.
On Friday, Sparta responded with a lengthy statement saying that their young fans were being unfairly accused and targeted.
The club statement read: “We would like to thank Rangers FC for Thursday’s fair sporting contest in the UEFA Europa League.
“It was an honor to welcome to Prague and at our stadium a famous and successful Scottish club, its players, the executive team and members of the management. We are convinced that they were satisfied with the service provided by our club.
“We contributed to Rangers FC feeling as safe as possible during their stay in the Czech Republic. We were involved in ensuring their protection together with the security forces of the state and we took steps that went far beyond the standard procedures for organizing international matches.
“It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism. 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 the social medias. You are describing the behavior 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.”
The Czech club also criticised Kamara’s lawyer Aamer Anwar, who had condemned the crowd’s behaviour on Thursday and said that the city of Prague has “a serious problem with racism”.
The Sparta statement continued: “Sadly, we have to read the desperate attacks of lawyer Aamer Anwar, who goes beyond what a lawyer should be allowed to do.
“In the Czech environment, his conduct would have been dealt with by the Bar Association by now. His activism and online bullying should be dealt with by the relevant institution in Scotland. Inciting xenophobic tendencies and verbal attacks on defenceless children are beyond the pale of morality and decorum.
“Finally, on behalf of the club’s board, players, coaches and all staff, we would like to thank the children for a wonderful and unique atmosphere.
“Thank you, we love you. The parents who made it possible for their sons and daughters to attend, as well as the coaches and teachers who came to Letna stadium as supervisors and contributed significantly to the smooth organization of the match, also deserve our thanks and respect.
“This match will go down in the club’s history in a positive sense.
“We ask the representatives of Rangers FC to do their part to stop the xenophobic atmosphere directed towards our children, our beautiful country and its inhabitants.”
Jaroslav Tvrdik, president of Sparta’s rivals Slavia, tweeted: “We support the statement of AC Sparta Prague and fully agree with its content.”
The Czech foreign minister Jakub Kulnahek said he will be raising the matter with the British ambassador to the country.
Kulnahek tweeted: “That’s enough. The gross insults of Czech children in the media and on the internet do not belong in football, and certainly not in good relations between two countries. I’ll summon the British ambassador on Monday and deal with him.”
UEFA has said that it it currently looking into the matter.
Rangers will play Sparta at Ibrox on November 25.