Haringey chairman fears for football's future after racism walk-off


London  - Haringey Borough chairman Aki Achillea says football faces a worrying future unless racism is stamped out after his team walked off the pitch following alleged abuse in an FA Cup tie.

Just days after England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria was twice stopped following racist abuse of the visiting players in Sofia, there was another shameful incident in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round.

Haringey goalkeeper Valery Pajetat and defender Coby Rowe were subjected to what the non-league club claimed was racial abuse from Yeovil Town fans.

Achillea said stones were thrown at Cameroonian Pajetat, who was also allegedly spat at before Yeovil scored a 64th minute penalty at Haringey's Coles Park Stadium.

After the penalty was scored, Rowe was allegedly racially abused, prompting the Haringey players to walk off and leading to the match being abandoned.

Haringey, who play in the Isthmian League Premier Division, and Yeovil, who are in the fifth tier National League, are the latest clubs to be affected by racism in football.

Last season, Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both endured alleged racism from the stands, while there have been numerous other incidents outside the Premier League this term.

The sight of Bulgarian fans aiming monkey chants and Nazi salutes at England players including Sterling and Tyrone Mings eventually led to the resignations of Bulgaria Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov and manager Krasimir Balakov.

But football authorities are seemingly unable to curb the recuring blight of racism, which was last a major problem for the game in the 1970s and 1980s.

Achillea said he hoped the actions of his players would lead to a major shake-up in the way the sport attacks racism.

"If the stand we have taken helps other clubs and stops other people from being abused then it's all been worth it, whatever the personal cost to all of us," Achillea told the Guardian on Sunday.

"It will be worthless if nothing comes of this that changes people's perceptions and attitudes.

"If we are responsible for playing our part in identifying the problem, in helping people address the problem and people recognising that they cannot do this at football matches or anywhere in society, then I'll be very proud that we contributed to that, regardless of the massive impact on us.

"It's reached the stage where people have realised somewhere something has to be done but unfortunately it happened to us in the most prestigious cup competition in the world. It upsets and worries me immensely about the future."

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegations.

The English Football Association said they were was concerned by events and are working with the match officials, the clubs and the relevant authorities to determine appropriate action.

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