‘We had race attacks before but no action’
Haringey manager says club’s plight is ignored Bristol City and Hearts fans accused of abuse
The Haringey Borough manager who hauled his team off the pitch after racist abuse during an FA Cup qualifier says the incident is the latest in a long line of attacks against his black players.
Tom Loizou says he is “not holding my breath” for a robust response from authorities after his goalkeeper was pelted with stones and bottles and allegedly called a “black c---” by Yeovil Town fans.
Yesterday the Football Association said it was “deeply concerned” about the abuse and promised it was working “as a matter of urgency to fully establish the facts and take the appropriate steps”.
However, Loizou said he had previously concluded “we weren’t a high-profile enough club to have anything done about it” after other allegations were raised. “We’ve had loads of incidents here over the years,” the manager told The Daily Telegraph, including one against his goalkeeper four years ago. “Everyone’s got to follow protocol, say the right thing, be political.”
Loizou said his players were visibly distraught after the episode on Saturday. As well as the team’s black players facing abuse, he claims women working in the club’s burger bar were left crying after lewd insults.
After the team’s walk-off, Kick It Out, which recorded 442 cases of discriminatory abuse including homophobia, anti-semitism and Islamophobia last season, praised Loizou’s “decisive action”, comparing the response with England’s against the racists in Bulgaria.
Kick It Out says it passes on every report to relevant authorities. “We have no power to investigate or issue punishments,” the charity said. “That responsibility lies with football’s authorities and, in some instances, the police.”
On the day the Premier League and English Football League launched high-profile anti-racism campaigns, the Isthmian League Premier Division side walked off in the 64th minute after Yeovil fans aimed most of their abuse at goalkeeper Valery Douglas Pajetat.
The goalkeeper told The Telegraph: “My objective is not to criticise Yeovil Town because the players had a good reaction and supported me. I feel really really sad and disappointed that the efforts the players make, that these fans did what they did.”
Pajetat’s team-mate, Coby Rowe, also faced slurs in the build-up to a Yeovil penalty, which Rhys Murphy converted. Rowe had to be restrained by security as Haringey’s players left the Coles Park pitch, while Yeovil’s captain went over to speak to his fans, as did the referee. With Yeovil leading 1-0 in the fourth-round qualifier, Haringey decided while in the dressing room not to return to the pitch because players feared for their safety.
Yeovil’s West Country neighbours, Bristol City, also faced allegations of racism by fans against Luton Town on Saturday. The incidents come after both Greg Clarke, the FA chairman, and Kick It Out’s Troy Townsend said the English game must not be complacent about tackling its own problems amid the furore following the Bulgaria Euro 2020 qualifier.
Loizou, who has since said he is not bothered about getting the FA Cup match replayed, feels sympathy with players in the professional game because Uefa’s three-step protocol is a “bit of a joke”.
“I did it for my players, no other reason,” Loizou said, explaining why he asked to stop the game. “Whether the FA wants to throw us out for walking off the pitch I really don’t care. We’re not playing baseball and it’s three hits and you’re out. Unfortunately, professional players are governed by this rule, but what can they do to me? The protocol is a bit of a joke and I have every sympathy with the players and Gareth Southgate.”
Loizou said some of his players “were shaking”. “We’re a small football club, we haven’t got big budgets. I have to find players in the lower leagues, Sunday leagues, and develop them. When I saw the look on their faces it was the easiest decision to take them off. All Valery has got is the Yeovil fans throwing stones at his head. Spitting at him, chanting at him and then throwing bottles. The goalkeeper’s done so well not to react. I saw it all.”
He said the Yeovil players and staff had reacted in an exemplary fashion, but branded some of the fans “animals”. “When the person standing next to him sees him and hears it, why are they not doing anything about it? I spent all week with volunteers segregating the ground, putting pebbles down so they could walk without mud on their shoes. Shopping for hot dogs, burgers, to feed these animals.” Police said they were investigating reports of racist comments and items thrown on to the pitch.
Elsewhere, Hearts and Bristol City have started investigations following allegations of racist abuse from their fans during over the weekend.
Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos was alleged to have been targeted after scoring a 39th-minute equaliser at Hearts. Bristol City fans were accused of racist chanting during their 3-0 Championship defeat at Luton Town on Saturday.
In Serie A, England Under-21 midfielder Ronaldo Vieira was subjected to racist chants by fans while playing for Sampdoria against Roma.
Flashpoint: Coby Rowe of Haringey Borough is held back after being the subject of abuse, the players walk off (extreme left) and goalkeeper Valery Douglas Pajetat (left) points out the alleged source