The FA has launched an investigation after Emre Belözoglu, the Newcastle United midfield player, was accused of racially abusing Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper, during his team’s 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The inquiry was triggered after Dermot Gallagher, the referee, included in his match report that Howard had claimed that he was the subject of racial taunts from Emre.
Although it is not known what Emre is claimed to have said, the alleged incident is understood to have occurred moments before half-time when Newcastle were awarded a penalty after Leon Osman, the Everton midfield player, fouled Kieron Dyer.
Everton’s players were initially thought to have been angered by Emre’s calls for Gallagher to show Osman a yellow card, but it has since emerged that Howard was incensed by a racist remark that the Turk allegedly made after the United States goalkeeper had intervened in a dispute between Emre and Joseph Yobo, the Everton defender.
Gallagher eventually restored order after a 20-man mêlée, but the arguments resumed as the players disappeared down the tunnel at half-time. Everton’s players were told after the game not to discuss the matter further.
A spokesman for the FA said: “We have received the referee’s report, which mentions that an Everton player claimed he received racial abuse from another player. The next step is for us to speak to Everton and Newcastle.”
Ahmet Bulut, Emre’s agent, last night rejected claims that the player had made any racist remarks during the game. “I spoke with Emre and he said that he never said anything racist to the player,” Bulut said.
“His best friend at Newcastle is Obafemi Martins, who is black. These claims are not true. Emre never had any problems when he played in Turkey or Italy and he has never had any problems with other players in England either.
“On the field he is an aggressive player, like other players are, but he would never make racist remarks. My English is bad, but his is even worse and he wouldn’t even know these racist words.”
Everton confirmed that the FA had been in contact. A spokesman for the Merseyside club said: “The FA have been in touch with the club and we will be discussing the matter with them in the days ahead.”
While Emre, who coincidentally snubbed Everton in favour of joining Newcastle for £3.8 million in July 2005, has a reputation for being mildmannered and likeable off the field, he is no stranger to controversy on it.
Last month, he was involved in a touchline row with Wally Downes, the Reading coach, during Newcastle’s 3-2 win at St James’ Park. Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle manager, said that Emre had been “upset” by something Downes had said to him, although Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, offered a different take on the matter, claiming that the Turkey midfield player had called Downes “Puttana”, the Italian word for whore.
“Wally has been reported as saying ‘What the f****** hell’s going on?’ That’s all he said,” Coppell said. “There was no personal slur, there was nothing, yet for whatever reason their player [Emre] was angry about it.
“He swore at our people, in Italian for some reason, not knowing our goalkeeping coach is Italian.”
In February last year, Emre was given a six-match international ban — later reduced to four games on appeal — and fined SwFr15,000 (about £6,200) for his part in the ugly post-match brawl that blighted Turkey’s 2006 World Cup qualifying match against Switzerland the previous November.
Leon Mann, a spokesman for Kick It Out, football’s anti-racism campaign, said: “We welcome the news that the Football Association will investigate the alleged incident and hope they are able to get to the bottom of what happened.”
I've heard that Tim Howard has defied orders and will be interviewed by the FA over the incident. Both he and Lescott ignored Emre's 'apology' yet Yobo accepted.
I still thnk it's strange how the club are trying to cover up.