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Meireles ban cut to four matches on appeal
Fenerbahce's Portuguese star Raul Meireles had his 11-match ban for spitting and allegedly making an offensive gesture at a referee reduced to four after a Turkish Football Federation appeal commission ruling on Thursday.
The commission watched more than six hours of video footage of the incident during the derby with Galatasaray on December 16 and concluded that while the former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder was guilty of insulting the official, he did not spit at him.
"As the player carried on talking throughout the entire incident, it would not have been physically possible for him to have spat," the commission ruled in a statement posted on the Federation website.
Meireles, 29, had already picked up a one-match suspension for two yellow cards he received in the Galatasaray game and the commission upheld the decision to fine him 20,000 Turkish pounds (8,400 euros).
The midfielder has always protested his innocence and club officials backed him up, insisting he had not spat at the referee.
He was also supported by several members of the Portuguese national team, who leapt to his defence after the news of the initial punishment last week.
In a letter of support posted on the Fenerbahce website, Portugal manager Paulo Bento called Meireles "a perfect example of a serious and committed player. I absolutely do not believe he could be involved in a case of spitting."
That view was backed by national captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who, along with fellow internationals Bruno Alves, Nani and Pepe, said in a letter to the commission: "The national team's players are entirely convinced that given his character, the man, the player, our colleague and friend Raul Meireles could not have done what he is accused of."
Based on referee Halis Ozkahya's report the commission suspended Meireles for 11 matches and imposed the fine for "spitting and insulting the referee after his red card".
Meireles said after the initial hearing: "I don't know what the hand gesture for calling somebody gay is in Turkey but what I did was entirely based around the referee being a coward and bowing to the pressure.
"Look at my hairstyle, what I wear, I'm not a prejudicial person, my hand gesture was in no way, shape or form a homophobic one.
"The referee's accusations are outrageous and defamatory. I have an eight-year-old child, can you imagine if kids start saying your father spat at a referee?"
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