Coach apologizes for racist shot at Henry
Spanish coach Aragones apologizes over racist remarks about Henry
Friday, October 08, 2004
MADRID (CP) - Under-fire coach Luis Aragones apologized Friday for racist remarks made against star French striker Thierry Henry of Arsenal.
"In the first place, I'd like to state that it was never my intention to offend anyone," said Aragones on the Spanish soccer federation's website. "What I said can only be interpreted within the ambit of the squad and a training session, where my obligation is to motivate my players to obtain better results."
Aragones said he was trying to motivate Henry's Arsenal teammate Jose Antonio Reyes during Wednesday's training session ahead of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Belgium when the incident occurred.
TV microphones picked up what Aragones said to Reyes about Henry.
Heads touching and staring into Reyes' eyes, Aragones launched into what one reporter called "an aggressive if jokey tirade."
Aragones implored Reyes: "Tell that negro de mierda (black shit) that you are much better than him. Don't hold back, tell him. Tell him from me. You have to believe in yourself, you're better than that negro de mierda."
A whirlwind of criticism had swirled around Aragones for his comments.
Sports daily As said Friday that FIFA has contacted the Spanish Soccer Federation, asking for a clarification of the incident.
"FIFA will now have to say if it will open a file on this incident," said As.
Newspaper La Vanguardia highlighted the seriousness of the comments by conveying the headlined of five major English newspapers, including the Times and Britain's best-selling tabloid, the Sun. All of them were highly critical of Aragones.
Several point out that English sports broadcaster Ron Atkinson lost his high-profile job for similar comments aimed at Marcel Desailly, Henry's teammate from Arsenal and the French national team.
To add to Aragones's woes, the players in the French national squad are now asking for action to be taken against him. Robert Pires has led the chorus of disapproval by stating that Aragones should be sued for his comments.
Strict anti-racist laws in Britain and France are aimed at curbing racist abuse in sport, especially soccer.
Earlier, Aragones named Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez and cross-town rival Fernando Torres of Atletico in his attacking formation Friday ahead of this weekend's World Cup qualifier against Belgium.
Over the past six months Raul's poor form has caused concern in Madrid, with many suspecting that it led to the signing of striker Michael Owen from Liverpool.
Raul, Spain's leading goal-scorer, had not scored in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for over 190 days before breaking his barren spell by scoring three times in the last two games.
"Facing goal he has recovered," Aragones said. "I never saw him as being all that bad because he was working harder than ever. I think he's OK."