Melbourne City goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis has been handed a five-match ban by Football Federation Australia for using a racial slur against Melbourne Victory’s Besart Berisha during last weekend’s derby at Etihad Stadium.
Bouzanis saved Berisha’s penalty with the score still 0-0 during an ill-tempered game but the striker equalised before playing a decisive role in a controversial winner.
Berisha was in an offside position as Manny Muscat sought to cut out a cross towards him and put through his own goal
Lengthy deliberation between the officials ended with the goal being awarded, prompting a celebration from the Albanian in Bouzanis’ direction. The City keeper responded by appearing to call his adversary a “f****** gypsy”.
Following a meeting of its disciplinary and ethics committee, a statement from the FFA read: “The committee determined that the player did commit the offence and must serve a suspension of five matches … for committing the offence of ‘use of discriminatory language and/or gestures, including racist, religious, ethnic or sexist’.”
In response to his punishment, Bouzanis said: “I have accepted the sanction handed down. I have apologised to Berisha and Melbourne Victory directly and I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my apology to the fans and the broader Australian football community.
“My future actions on and off the pitch will demonstrate I have learnt from this experience.”
Bouzanis’ sanction is the minimum prescribed by the A-League’s disciplinary rules in this area and the FFA praised City and Bouzanis for their conduct after the incident.
FFA chief executive David Gallop said: “There is no doubt this is a serious offence and FFA reinforces its stance on the use of racial or other discriminatory remarks.
“Football’s strength is its ability to unite people from all backgrounds and walks of life and we will not tolerate racial vilification in our sport.
“In saying that, FFA commends the exemplary response of Melbourne City and Dean Bouzanis in immediately seeking to deal with the issue, recognising that the behaviour was unacceptable, showing genuine remorse, taking proactive steps to apologise in person to the opposition player involved and working with the PFA to learn from the incident and help educate the player.”
City will also be without Tim Cahill for Saturday’s match against Brisbane Roar after the Australia star was red carded for swearing at a match official in the aftermath of Victory’s winner, despite being an unused substitute at the time.
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