The Daily Telegraph

Rooney and Neville calm racism row

- By Tom Morgan

Wayne Rooney and Phil Neville played peacemaker­s from opposing Major League Soccer dugouts when a racism storm erupted between two players.

The former Manchester United pair were summoned to talk to the referee as play was held up for several minutes for the match between Rooney’s DC United and Neville’s Inter Miami.

United forward Taxi Fountas was accused of racially abusing Inter defender Damion Lowe during an altercatio­n in the second half. As tensions boiled over on the pitch, DC manager Rooney and opposite number Neville were called over by referee Ismail Elfath. Neville discussed whether his players should leave the field during the four-minute stoppage, but play did eventually continue. Rooney substitute­d Fountas almost immediatel­y.

“There was a racist comment that was unacceptab­le,” Neville said in his post-match press conference. “A word was used that I think is unacceptab­le in society. I think it’s the worst word in the world. There is no place at all for racism on a football field or society.

“I must commend my players for keeping their calm, I must commend the referee – in a really difficult situation, he followed the protocols set out by the MLS – and I must give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for dealing with it in the way that he did.

“I have always known him as a class act and he went up in my estimation, more than any goal he has ever scored.”

The alleged incident occurred in the 59th minute as Greece internatio­nal Fountas, who had scored moments earlier, got involved in a scuffle with Lowe.

The matter is being investigat­ed by MLS. A spokesman told ESPN: “MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and we take these allegation­s very seriously. An investigat­ion into this matter will begin promptly.”

A DC United statement added: “DC United are aware of the allegation­s. The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigat­e the incident.”

Referee Elfath was quoted as saying that neither he nor any of the onfield officials heard a racial slur, while the incident was also checked by Var. Miami went on to win the match 3-2 with a late goal from Gonzalo Higuain.

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