Update from Thursday, July 23
HNK Rijeka have released a statement in response to Manchester City's decision to abandon their recent Elite Development Squad fixture due to an allegation of racism.
The statement, provided by the Mirror's Aaron Flanagan, states:
Rijeka clearly and unequivocally rejects any possibility that the players at the match against Manchester City participated in assaulting the rival players on racial, religious or ethnic grounds.
We want to point out the fact that we mentioned at the game we had six players from the Nigeria squad, players who live and train together with our other players, who learned the Croatian language and who have never experienced any discomfort by team-mates - as they themselves can attest.
We also want to point out that Rijeka, in co-operation with FARE, supports a campaign against racism and strongly condemns any incident of its kind.
Because of this, we are surprised by the unpleasantly harsh and baseless accusations of which we are accused and that we completely reject.
The Croatian FA has confirmed it is investigating the incident, reported by the Press Association via the Guardian:
We are in the process of gathering information regarding the alleged incident and if there are any decisions to be made we’ll make it public on our website.
CFF follows a strong ‘no racism’ policy so we take all accusations of racism very seriously. The fight against racism (and any sort of discrimination) is one of the key components of our president Davor Suker’s programme and that is why we will have a good look into this matter.
Manchester City were forced to abandon their Elite Development Squad fixture with Croatian Club HNK Rijeka after an alleged incident of racist abuse.
According to the club's Twitter feed, City's French midfielder Seko Fofana was the subject of the abuse, leading the team's staff to remove its players from the pitch in the first half and void the rest of the match:
Manchester City's EDS U21 game with HNK Rijeka has today been cancelled due to an alleged incident of racial abuse… (1/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
…toward the Club's young midfielder, Seko Fofana by a member of the opposing team. (2/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
Following an alleged incident in the latter stages of the first half of the game, being played in Novigrad, Croatia… (3/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
…a decision was taken by the management staff to withdraw the City team from the field of play and cancel the game. (4/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
Club representatives in Croatia and in Manchester are liaising with officials, the match organisers… (5/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
…and the Croatian Football Association to pursue this matter further. (6/6)— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 22, 2014
Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail reported that Fofana had been sent off after lashing out against the Rijeka player who had abused him:
#MCFC EDS player Seko Fofana allegedly racially abused. Was sent off after kicking out after racial abuse. Match immediately postponed— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) July 22, 2014
As Crafton pointed out, Manchester City have been down this road before:
#mcfc incensed after 4th case of racial abuse in 2 years. Balo v Porto, Yaya v CSKA, Devante Cole v Atletico + now allegedly Fofana.— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) July 22, 2014
This incident is similar to the situation Kevin-Prince Boateng faced in a friendly against Italian side Pro Patria last year. After getting racially abused by a group of fans, the then-AC Milan midfielder took of his shirt and walked off the pitch, followed shortly thereafter by his Milan teammates and staff members.
Manchester City will likely be applauded by many for standing by their player and remaining defiant. Rather than letting Fofana leave the pitch and having that be the end of it, the club took a stand.
This is only the most recent flare-up in the larger problem that is racism in football, and it almost certainly won't be the last.
Many fans want the governing bodies of the game to do more, but the roots of the issue appear to stretch deeper than the sport. FIFA or UEFA can't change the actions of a segment of supporters. Of course, it doesn't help when FIFA President Sepp Blatter lobbies for players to end racial problems with handshakes.
But as long as racism still exists in the world, it will no doubt continue permeating into football, as unfortunate as that is.