SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Jimmy Durmaz and his fellow Sweden players took a strong stand against racism after the Swedish FA complained to police about a storm of racial hatred and threats aimed at the winger following his late mistake against Germany on Saturday.
Substitute Durmaz gave away the stoppage-time free kick that led to Toni Kroos’s stunning late winner in the Group F clash, and the stream of invective on the 29-year-old’s Instagram account began almost as soon as the goal was scored.
The Swedes began Sunday’s training session in Gelendzhik by uniting behind Durmaz as he read a statement from his cellphone.
“I am a footballer at the highest level, being criticized is something we live with, but being called ‘fucking immigrant’ and ‘suicide bomber’, and having death threats made against me and my children is completely unacceptable,” Durmaz said.
“I am Swedish, and with pride I wear our shirt and our flag. I want to thank the fine, wonderful people who spread joy. It warms us all. We stand united, we are Sweden.”
The statement concluded with the entire squad shouting “Fuck racism!” before applauding and jogging out to begin their workout.
Earlier in the day, general secretary Hakan Sjostrand said that the Swedish FA had reported the abuse to police on behalf of the player.
“A number of complaints have been made with the Swedish FA as the plaintiff so that Jimmy can concentrate on what he is here to do — play football. But Durmaz is fully behind the complaints,” Sjostrand said in a statement.
“We do not tolerate a player being subjected to threats or abuse. It’s uncomfortable and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has had to put up with. Completely unacceptable,” he added.
The Swedes looked like securing a draw until Kroos struck deep into stoppage time to secure a 2-1 win and emotions boiled over after the final whistle as an angry Sweden coach Janne Andersson accused German officials of taunting his side.
Sweden substitute Pontus Jansson said he had lost his temper with the Germans but accepted they had ultimately regretted their actions.
“Some of them celebrated in a disrespectful way in my opinion. There was a lot of feelings, we had just let in a goal and lost the game, so it was pretty sour,” Jansson said.
“Maybe there was unnecessary anger (from me), but they apologized afterwards so it’s just a case of accepting it. There were a lot of feelings in the heat of the moment.”
The Swedish tactic of closing down the center of defense and allowing the Germans space on the wings looked like paying off until Kroos’s late goal and they now need to recover and beat Mexico to be sure of advancing to the second round.
“In the dressing room we said we have everything in our own hands,” Jansson said. “Obviously we’re angry and sad but we need to reload and do it in the next game.”
Sweden play Mexico in Ekaterinburg on June 27.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor