South American champions River Plate have issued an official apology to Lionel Messi and Barcelona after the player was reportedly spat at by the club's supporters in the aftermath of their Club World Cup final. The club's president, Rodolfo D'Onofrio, has also vowed to ban those culpable.
As reported by Peter Gilbert of Sky Sports, the incident reportedly occurred at a Tokyo airport following the Blaugrana's 3-0 win. In a statement on their website (h/t Dermot Corrgian of ESPN FC), Los Millonarios condemned the actions of those involved:
In relation to the attack suffered by Lionel Messi at Narita airport, Club Atletico River Plate repudiates any type of violence and offers its apologies to the player and to FC Barcelona. At the same time, River Plate wishes to congratulate Barcelona for winning the 2015 World Club Cup played in Japan.
Speaking with Cadena COPE (h/t AS), D'Onofrio was adamant that if the culprit is found, he will be dealt with severely.
"When we arrive home in Buenos Aires, we hope to identity his aggressor, and if it turns out that he is a season ticket holder, he will be immediately banned," he said. "This sorry affair only spoils the party for everyone else. I cannot understand it; these idiots should not be allowed at these events."
Here's a look at some snaps of the alleged incident, per Joan Vehils of Sport (h/t The Catalan Giant):
As reported by Corrigan, Messi actually came close to joining River when he was growing up in Argentina but opted to move to Barcelona, as they could afford the hormone treatment needed to bulk him up.
Boyle writes in his report that the Barcelona No. 10 actually paid his respects to the supporters of the Copa Libertadores winners during the final, in which he scored the opening goal, by raising his hand aloft in their direction.
On the pitch, it's been a remarkable year for Messi, who helped Barca to their fifth major honour of the calendar year. The Blaugrana icon is expected to be named as the world's best player at the upcoming Ballon d'Or ceremony and will be seeking to retain the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey crowns won last season in 2016.