Sheffield Wednesday: Fernando Forestieri left ‘devastated’ after FA charge
Sheffield Wednesday forward Fernando Forestieri says he is "devastated" after the Football Association's independent regulatory commission hit him with a six-match ban.
Forestieri has been found guilty of using racist language during a pre-season friendly against Mansfield Town in July 2018. His comments towards Stags defender Krystian Pearce in the second half of the fixture sparked a brawl on the pitch.
But the 29-year-old was acquitted of racially abusing Pearce at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court earlier this year.
However, the FA reopened their investigation into the case following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings and charged Forestieri in June.
Although the commission felt that while Forestieri was not guilty to the standard needed for a criminal conviction, there was enough evidence for them to find him in breach of their rules and they have slapped him with a six-match ban. He has also been fined £25,000.
A report released by the governing body revealed Forestieri is alleged to have called Pearce a "n*****" during the heated confrontation.
But the Argentine-born player, whose first language is Spanish, has denied using the N-word, but did admit to aiming other abusive Spanish words towards Pearce.
Forestieri's sanction comes on the day the FA announced it has increased the minimum ban for anyone found guilty of racial abuse from five to six matches ahead of the 2019/20 season.
"I am devastated and disappointed with the decision of the Regulatory Commission that has been published earlier today by the FA," Forestieri said in a statement on the club's website.
"I have now been the subject of allegations of racism for over a year and it has been an extremely stressful time for both me personally and also my family in both England and Argentina.
"Throughout that period of time, throughout both the criminal proceedings and the FA’s disciplinary proceedings, I have consistently and strenuously denied the allegations that have been made against me.
"Whilst I was shocked and saddened to face criminal charges regarding this matter, I was equally happy to be found not guilty of those charges in March 2019 by the Criminal Court and considered that to be the end of a very distressing time. As I said at the time, I felt vindicated by the decision of the judge.
"To discover I would then have to face an FA charge was devastating. But I truly believed that these erroneous allegations would be dismissed and my good name upheld.
"I am therefore extremely disappointed, shocked and saddened that the Regulatory Commission found The FA’s charge proven, despite having been acquitted before the Criminal Court and in respect of an act that I would find abhorrent if I witnessed it in any walk of life."
Forestieri has indicated he will appeal the FA's decision, meaning he is free to play until the hearing is completed.Forestieri, who has also been warned as to his future conduct and ordered to attend the FA's education course, added: "I am not and never will be a person or a footballer who says offensive things by reference to race to my colleagues or other players, either on or off the pitch.
"My mother taught me how to respect others and how important that is.
"The decision today therefore goes against everything about the person I am and the person I was brought up to be. It is absolutely no comfort to me that, when charging me with misconduct, The FA were very clear that they did not consider me to be racist but instead believed that I had acted in the ‘heat of the moment’.
"To be prevented from playing the game of football, which I love, for six matches is a major matter in my life, but it is insignificant compared to the wider implications of the decision and the unjustified stain that it places on my character.
"Consequently, having reflected upon the Written Reasons of the Regulatory Commission with my legal representatives, I have decided to exercise my right of appeal.
"I will not make any further comment pending the conclusion of those appeal proceedings."