Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola once again defended the character of Bernardo Silva after the midfielder wrote to the Football Association to apologise for the racially insensitive tweet he posted to team-mate Benjamin Mendy.
The FA asked City for their observations this week after Silva tweeted – and subsequently deleted – a picture of a young Mendy and a dated image used by Spanish confectionary brand Conguitos.
The caricature, which has previously been condemned for having racist connotations, was posted alongside the caption “Guess who”. Mendy, who has been close friends with the Portugal international since their time together at Monaco, responded in apparent amusement but the tweet was widely deemed to be offensive.
Anti-discrimination pressure group Kick It Out said it was: “shocked that someone who is a role model to millions has failed to understand the discriminatory nature of his post.” After deleting his tweet, Silva posted again to say: “Can’t even joke with a friend these days.. You guys…”
Omnisport understands Silva wrote a personal letter to the FA on Thursday, in which he is believed to have expressed regret at any hurt unintentionally caused. Mendy also issued support on his behalf, stating he took no offence, as part of the submission.
Speaking ahead of City’s Premier League match at Everton on Sunday, Guardiola – as he did in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 3-0 EFL Cup win at Preston North End – issued unwavering support for Silva, describing him as an “exceptional person” and claiming he and Mendy are “like brothers”.
When it was put to Guardiola that, regardless of offence caused by the tweet, no one was calling Silva a racist, he responded, “It looks like [they are].”
Despite a strong defence of Silva after the Preston game opening Guardiola himself up for criticism, he doubled down on his position and sought to draw a contrast between this social media controversy and recent examples of overt racism inside football stadiums.
Can’t even joke with a friend these days… You guys…
— Bernardo Silva (@BernardoCSilva) September 22, 2019
“If someone is affected or feels bad for that tweet or any comment it can happen,” he said.
“Again, the people who judge Bernardo don’t know him and then, after that, it is what it is.
“Bernardo is an exceptional person. He likes to be involved in different situations. Like I said, make a focus on other issues – not on Bernardo because he is absolutely not guilty.
“His intention was just a joke. It is a cartoon and related because the face is quite similar. The same happened a thousand-million times with white people. It is the same.
“That was the intention, it was just a joke. If the people in the FA or departments believe it is the opposite, I think Bernardo and Manchester City are open to listen.”
Guardiola added: “[Racism] happened many times, we have to condemn. We have to fight [against] that, what happened in the stadiums.
“Just because you have more money, or different colours of your skin, or your behaviour, or you were born in this place or the other place and you feel a little bit better than the other one, that is ridiculous.
“I don’t believe I am something special or different [because of] my country or my social position, or because I talk every three days here in the media [that] I am different to the other ones.
“Bernardo, I think so, because I spoke many times in my three years here with him, is this type of person.
“Like I said, put the focus on other important things and not Bernardo. Bernardo was [making] a simple joke.
“If someone is offended I can understand it. Maybe Bernardo can take lessons and it is not going to happen again.”
An Instagram video from last year featuring Mendy and Silva, where the latter jokes his team-mate is “completely naked” is also understood to be part of the FA’s investigation. Mendy is wearing a black t-shirt and shorts in the clip.
At his news conference, Guardiola said he had not seen the video.
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