A UK Cypriot Tottenham football fan has issued a grovelling apology after being arrested and charged after throwing a banana skin at Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during a match, which has led to accusations of racism.
A string of arrests was made following the match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, which saw a number of incidents including the banana skin, which was later revealed to have been thrown by Averof Panteli, 57, from Norwich.
He was one of three men charged with throwing a missile on to a football pitch in separate incidents. Panteli threw the skin when Aubameyang scored the opening goal in Arsenal’s 4-2 victory over Tottenham.
Panteli told the Sun he was “not racist whatsoever.”
He said he picked up the banana skin after a child threw it away without thinking of any racial implications.
“I am not racist whatsoever,” told the British tabloid. “I am actually a Greek Cypriot. I am 100 per cent not a racist. I swear on my kids’ lives that I am not that kind of guy. I apologise if I have offended anyone from both clubs, especially Tottenham. It was a mad thing I did and I never meant to offend anyone in any way. I never meant anything by it.”
Panteli went on to say that the Arsenal player was gloating in front of the away fans. “He came up towards the away fans about 10m away and he is basically nodding his head and clapping at us. Without thinking, I picked up this banana skin from the ground and threw it on the edge of the pitch. I didn’t throw it at the players. It was just on the edge of the pitch. I am not condoning what I did and I regret it already.”
Tottenham released a statement condemning Panteli’s “completely unacceptable” behaviour and did not rule out a ban.
The banana skin was seen on the field of play as Arsenal players celebrated, with CCTV images reviewed to confirm what had happened.
“Behaviour such as this is completely unacceptable and the supporter in question will be issued with a ban,” a Tottenham spokesman said.
Anti-discrimination group Kick it Out, which recently reported incidents of racism on the rise, called for the individual to face a life ban.
Aleksander Ceferin, president of European soccer body UEFA, also condemned the incident.
“We have to do more and campaign more against it, we fine clubs but it is not enough. We need to educate the young people but when you see an event like that it is a disaster if you ask me,” he told the BBC.