A Spurs fan who hurled a banana skin at Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during a racist outburst has been banned from football matches for four years.
Tottenham season ticket holder Averof Panteli, 57, launched the peel at the Gabon international scored a penalty in the north London Derby that saw the Gunners triumphed 4-2 at home on December 2.
The granddad has already been banned from Tottenham games for life by the club but magistrates today also stopped him attending any other games.
Panteli was also told to pay £635 in fines and costs after magistrates uplifted the sum because of the “racial element.”
He denied the gesture was racist when he admitted throwing the banana during a court hearing today (TUE), but magistrates rejected his claim.
The widower threw the skin, which he picked up after a child nearby finished eating the banana, when Aubameyang netted a penalty in the tenth minute.
Spurs fan Averof Panteli has insisted the throwing a banana skin at a black football player was not racist despite magistrates rejecting the claim.
Speaking outside court, his solicitor, Leila Rasool said: “I’m very disappointed in the reaction of the courts and I think they have bowed down to media pressure.”
She added: “At the end of the day Mr Panteli has been charged and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity to the offence of throwing a missile or object, in this case, unfortunately, a banana skin onto the pitch, and that’s the wording of the offence.”
Ms Rasool maintained Panteli’s claim the incident was not racist.
She said: “Mr Panteli is deeply distressed about the past weeks and the backlash he’s faced and vilification of him for what was a spur of the moment decision made by a passionate Tottenham fan.”
As his lawyer spoke Panteli added that it was thrown “at the group of players” rather than directed at Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
He said: “I can’t even go to the new stadium and that meant a lot to me.”
He was arrested and bailed until he appeared today at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, just half-a-mile from the Emirates Stadium, where the incident happened.
Grey-haired Panteli, of Norwich, Norfolk, stood in front of the dock wearing a dark jacket over a white shirt with its top button undone and a loose tie.
Speaking with a London accent, he confirmed his nationality as British and also asked for the charge to be amended to say he threw a “banana skin” and not a “banana”.
Prosecuting, Tom Gill said: “The banana skin was thrown on the pitch after one of the black Arsenal players, Aubameyang, scored a goal and was celebrating in the vicinity of the Tottenham fans.
“This was thrown in the direction of the player.”
A steward who saw the banana land, Michael Nott, could not see who threw it but was told by CCTV operators it was Panteli.
Mr Gill said: “He was detained by the steward in the stand, where he admitted he had thrown the banana skin.
“He said to this particular steward it was not a racial thing, it just happened.
“He was subsequently arrested in relation to this matter.
“His significant comment was, ‘I didn’t mean anything by it and sometimes you do things in life and think, why did I do that at all?’”
He again denied it was racial and said it was a “spur of the moment action.”
Mr Gill requested an uplift in the categorisation of the offence, adding: “The Crown would say this offence demonstrated hostility based on the victim’s race.”
Chair of the bench Mervyn Mandell said: “It’s a deliberate action, we find that it was a targeted gesture to throw a banana skin after a goal was scored by a black player.”
He fine Panteli £500, adding: “We have in the circumstances found that the racial element was there.”
The fine included a £100 uplift because of the racial element.
Panteli was also told to pay £85 costs and a £50 victim surcharge.
Defending, Leila Rasool said Panteli is from a Greek-Cypriot background and has no previous convictions.
She said the skin was thrown “onto the pitch, not directed at a player” and the allegation of racism is “not substantiated.”
Ms Rasool said: “The player in question that scored the goal, the penalty, Aubameyang, he has not made any statement to say he felt this was directed at him and was racially abusive.
“He has not expressed any offence by this and we have not heard from him.
“There’s no victim here.”
Ms Rasool added: “He’s a long-standing supporter of Tottenham and he has been going since age seven for 50 years at home and away.
“There have never been any incidents of disorder or violence.
“He had gone to the match with sons of his friends. He’s a season ticket holder.
“The Arsenal players, including Aubameyang, were goading the away fans and feelings run high in these matches.
“Mr Panteli is very passionate about the sport and he, in a fit of anger, it was really a spur of the moment thing.”
She said he didn’t take the banana to the game, adding: “It was on the floor.
“He was near a gentleman there with a young son who had been eating the banana and had discarded the skin.”
Ms Rasool added: “He’s been subject to death threats.”
Two other men, Charlie Watts, 26, and Jason Paul Gannon, 36, were also charged separately with throwing missiles onto the pitch at the game.
Watts, from St Albans, was banned from football matches for three years and handed a £650 fine and £150 in costs.
By Lewis Pennock