Slovakia’s FA chief has issued an apology to his English counterpart after Slovak fans were heard racially taunting England’s black players during Saturday’s EURO 2004 qualifier between the countries.
Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were booed whenever they touched the ball and Heskey subsequently described the incident as the worst example of racism he had encountered as a footballer.
In his letter to English FA chairman Geoff Thompson, Slovak Football Association President Frantisek Laurinec denies the racism was representative of Slovak fans as a whole.
‘These conducts, which we strongly condemn, by no means represent the general public opinion of the majority of the Slovak fans who…looked forward to seeing the match,’ Laurinec said in an open letter.
‘This is… proved by when English player Emile Heskey was leaving the field, the Slovak audience spontaneously applauded him for his performance during the game.’
‘SFA apologises for all the statements and behaviour that negatively affected the atmosphere of this international match, and is prepared to cooperate actively in investigating the case.’
Saturday’s incidents were the latest in what appears to be a growing problem at football matches in Europe. UEFA have investigated several complaints from English clubs in action in Europe, alleging that their players had been racially abused.
Last week, PSV Eindhoven were fined for the conduct of their supporters following their Champions League clash with Arsenal. Arsenal’s French striker Thierry Henry was abused during the match and also had missiles thrown in his direction.
UEFA meanwhile, have given their backing to the FARE network which aims to stamp out racism in football.