Sheffield Wednesday striker Fernando Forestieri said he was “devastated and disappointed” after being handed a six-match ban by the Football Association’s independent regulatory commission for using racist language.
The incident happened in a pre-season friendly last July between Wednesday and Mansfield, with Forestieri’s comments made towards Stags defender Krystian Pearce sparking a brawl on the pitch.
Forestieri was acquitted in March at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court of racially abusing Pearce but was charged by the Football Association in June.
The commission deemed the case against Forestieri proven on a lower burden of proof than the criminal proceedings, and the 29-year-old has also been given a £25,000 fine, warned as to his future conduct and ordered to attend face-to-face education.
The sanctions have been set aside with Forestieri given the right to appeal, which he immediately announced he would be doing.
In a statement on Wednesday’s official website, he said: “I am devastated and disappointed with the decision of the Regulatory Commission that has been published earlier today by the FA.
“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.
“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 continued to protest his innocence, saying: “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.
“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.”
Forestieri has already served a three-match suspension for misconduct relating to the brawl and was also fined £25,000.
Mansfield midfielder Jacob Mellis also received a three-game ban, while both clubs were fined following the incident.
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