I'm the victim! Blackburn star El Hadji Diouf claims that Everton fans threw bananas at him
23 September 2009 07:37
El Hadji Diouf sought to turn the tables on Everton by claiming he was the victim of a racist attack in Blackburn's 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park.
The former Liverpool forward came out fighting over his latest controversy as he angrily denied racially abusing a ballboy and accused Everton fans of pelting him with bananas in Sunday's Barclays Premier League game.
Merseyside Police are still investigating Diouf's altercation with the 13-year-old, in which he allegedly mouthed a racial obscenity after being unhappy at the way the ball was thrown back to him.
Breaking his silence over the latest flashpoint in a troubled career, the 28-year-old Senegalese said: 'People threw bananas at me, and the referee told me that he would report this to the police. I have had problems before, but never anything like the ones I had on Sunday. I don't want to let this matter rest.'
However, Merseyside Police have had no contact from referee Lee Mason and an inquiry into Diouf's claims, minutes after the final whistle, unearthed no evidence to support them.
Summoned from the away dressing room, Diouf responded to police questions about the ballboy's complaint by telling them he had been bombarded with bananas near the corner flag on the far side of the Gwladys Street end.
Senior officers were immediately sent to investigate but found nothing during their 15-minute search.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright was dismayed by Diouf's outburst, as he reflected on a successful campaign to promote racial tolerance at Goodison. He told Sportsmail: 'Everton FC abhors anything to do with racism. We have worked diligently and tirelessly to eradicate this blight, not only on the game but on society. Consequently, I am saddened by this whole episode.'
Everton subsequently cast further doubt on Diouf 's account by issuing a statement that said: 'We can say very little at this point, as the police inquiry into the incident is still ongoing. However, the only police investigation is into the allegation against El Hadji Diouf. The behaviour of Everton supporters is not being looked into.'
The ballboy, who is said to be distressed by the alleged incident and the furore it caused, was due to be interviewed by police on Tuesday, while the FA will wait until the inquiry has been concluded before deciding whether to take action.
Diouf, who is believed to have been sent death threats via the internet, denied being racist and claimed the row was sparked by the way the ball was returned to him as he went to retrieve it for a throw-in during the first half.
'The ballboy threw it to me like he'd throw a bone to a dog,' he said. 'The linesman told me he had seen what happened, but said that we had to keep the game going and that we would see about it at half-time.
'It is intolerable for a kid to say things like that. I have had other problems, with spitting or fights on the pitch - but not with racism. I can understand that they don't like me at Everton, but to say that I uttered racist words towards a child is nonsense.
Controversial: El-Hadji Diouf is believed to have received death threats via the internet
'I don't only have black friends. For example, I get on very well with Gael Givet at Blackburn. All this is not El Hadji Diouf. I have not done anything.'
It is not the first time Diouf has clashed with rival supporters. He has been fined twice in the past for spitting at fans of Celtic and Middlesbrough.
Nothing is guaranteed to cause consternation among Everton's hierarchy quite as much as a black player accusing their fans of racism. Years of striving to rid Goodison Park of its racist element will have been relived in the space of 48 hours after the ballboy's allegation and Diouf's subsequent counterclaim.
It revived memories of an age when colour prejudice was so rife that one prominent black player turned down a move to Goodison for fear of the reception he might receive from Everton's own supporters.
A few years earlier, at the beginning of the 1980s, Liverpool's England forward John Barnes had to contend with bananas being hurled at him during his first derby appearance at Goodison.
He made light of it by backheeling one over the touchline, but it was a stark illustration of a mentality that was to haunt Everton for years to come.
Though Everton signed Nigeria striker Daniel Amokachi in 1995, nearly 30 years after their first non-white player Mike Trebilcock scored twice in a dramatic FA Cup final win over Sheffield Wednesday, they continued to be blighted by bigotry.
Racist chanting at Filbert Street in November 2001 was so bad that Leicester made an official complaint and Everton threatened to stop selling tickets for away games.
They followed up by sending club stewards to sit with undercover police on subsequent away trips in an attempt to identify the ringleaders.
As recently as March 2005, two season-ticket holders on a supporters' coach were so disgusted by racist taunting of Asian passers-by as they approached Villa Park that they chose to travel back independently.
The number of black players emerging from Everton's youth academy has helped promote greater harmony, though, with one of them, striker Victor Anichebe, spearheading a recent Show Racism The Red Card campaign.
** Everton striker Yakubu is set to end an injury-enforced exile that has lasted nearly 10 months by returning to the starting line-up for tonight's Carling Cup tie at Hull. The £11.25m signing from Middlesbrough ruptured an achiles tendon at Tottenham last November but has finally fought his way back to full fitness.