Amsterdam (AFP) – Marko Arnautovic was defended by Austria captain David Alaba and coach Franco Foda after being handed a one-game Euro 2020 ban for insulting a North Macedonia player in his side’s opening match at the tournament.
UEFA said Arnautovic had been punished for “insulting another player” and the 32-year-old will miss his side’s match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Thursday as a result.
European football’s governing body had opened an investigation into Arnautovic following the incident in Sunday’s 3-1 win over North Macedonia in Bucharest.
The former West Ham United player, who now plays for Shanghai Port in China, netted Austria’s third goal in the game and then launched into an ill-tempered celebration until Alaba intervened to calm him down.
Media reports claimed he insulted Leeds United’s Ezgjan Alioski, referring to the North Macedonia defender’s Albanian heritage.
“I just wanted to celebrate with him and I didn’t realise he had had words with the North Macedonian player,” Alaba told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
“He had to put up with some bad words from the opposing players and out of emotion he reacted in that way.”
Arnautovic had come off the bench in Bucharest and coach Foda admitted he had been in line to start against the Dutch at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
“We thought about maybe putting him in the starting XI but now we will have to have a rethink,” said Foda, the German who took over as Austria coach in 2018.
“He was provoked from some North Macedonian players and out of emotion he over-reacted, but he admitted his mistake and apologised immediately after the match.”
Arnautovic posted a message on social media on Tuesday to say sorry following the incident which led to accusations he had racially abused opposing players.
“There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to APOLOGIZE — especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania,” Arnautovic said in a statement posted on social media on Tuesday.
“I would like to say one thing very clearly: I AM NOT A RACIST! I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity.”
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