Despite facing an 11-match ban for spitting and for anti-gay behaviour, ex-Chelsea Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles claims he can’t be homophobic, due to his hairstyle.
The 29-year-old, who now plays for Turkey’s Fenerbahce club in Istanbul, has also been punished by the country’s football association for spitting at referee Halis Ozkahya, after receiving a yellow card in a match last weekend.
The player told the club’s official television station FB TV: “I’m really annoyed at being accused of spitting at the referee. I have an eight-year-old kid, can you imagine if kids at school start saying your father spat at a ref, this could ruin my reputation in the eyes of my child”.
He went on to say: “I have many gay friends who I deeply respect. The hand gesture I made is directed at the referee caving in to the pressure of the home fans.
“That hand gesture was to tell him he was scared. Look at my hairstyle, what I wear, I’m not a prejudice person, my hand gesture was in no way, shape or form a homophobic one.
“I don’t know what the hand gesture for calling somebody gay is in Turkey but what I did was entirely based around the referee being a coward and bowing to the pressure.”
Meireles says he plans to contest referee Ozkahya’s decision to send him off.
“The referee’s accusations are outrageous and are defamation, I will be taking legal action against him to prove my innocence,” Meireles warned.
Fenerbache Chairman Aziz Yildirm has also claimed that the referee did not mention the gesture or spitting in his original match report.
Elsewhere in football on Friday, the chairman of the UK’s Football Association, David Bernstein, has said that no gay football player should fear coming out of the closet, following a decision by the governing body to tackle discrimination.