City back Vieira, mull UEFA complaint
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has backed Patrick Vieira's decision to take the club's under-21 side off the field after one of their players was allegedly abused during a match, as the Premier League champions consider making an official complaint to UEFA.
Vieira took his side off the pitch towards the end of the first of Tuesday night's friendly against Croatian side HNK Rijeka in Novigrad in the belief that midfielder Seko Fofana was subjected to abuse by an opposition player.
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Rijeka said on their official website that Vieira's reasons for the withdrawal "are known only to him," but Pellegrini spoke out in support of his colleague, who began coaching the Premier League champions' Elite Development Squad (EDS) this summer.
"I don't know too much, but if Patrick felt it was right to take the players off the pitch, it must have been the right thing to do," Pellegrini told reporters in Kansas City, where the club are on their preseason tour of the U.S. "He evaluated the situation and did the right thing. It is impossible to carry on playing when that kind of thing has happened."
City will continue to evaluate the situation now the EDS squad has returned home, as they were scheduled to do, but it is too early to say what their next course of action will be over racist abuse allegations made by 19-year-old Frenchman Fofana after he was sent off.
The Daily Telegraph reports that City will file an official complaint over the incident to European football's governing body, although that is yet to be confirmed.
According to Press Association Sport, the club fully support Vieira in making the decision he did but Rijeka have denied any of their players are racist and claimed the City boss may have had ulterior motives.
Ranko Buketa, who was in charge of Rijeka's team on Tuesday, accused Vieira of trying to divert attention away from Fofana's red card.
"It looks like a move which is trying to hide a very ugly foul by the Manchester City player that resulted in exclusion, followed by a hasty and illogical decision of the coaching staff to withdraw the team from the field," he told the club's official website.
"Such an abrupt decision surprised us as it was made by responsible people at a respectable club like Manchester City."
In a further statement the club added: "Rijeka clearly and unequivocally reject 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 teammates -- as they themselves can attest.
"We also want to point out that Rijeka, in cooperation 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."
Vieira has been praised for his actions by Piara Powar, executive director at anti-discrimination network FARE.
"We are not, in the short term, able to stop this sort of incident happening but to have someone like Patrick Vieira, with his status, do this makes the message very clear," Powar told Press Association Sport.
"The message it sends out is categorical. It is just the sort of thing which will create change.
"Rijeka are professing puzzlement as to why the team were taken off but I don't think Patrick would have done that without good cause.
"If it was bad enough to take the team off I would hope they would make a complaint [to FIFA]. We will be alerting FIFA to this."
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It is not the first time City's players have been involved in such incidents.
CSKA Moscow were ordered by UEFA to close part of their stadium after midfielder Yaya Toure was racially abused during a Champions League match in October.
Porto were fined 16,700 pounds in April 2012 after their supporters directed racist chants at Toure and striker Mario Balotelli, who has since left the club, during a Europa League tie.
Youth-team striker Devante Cole, son of former Manchester United and Newcastle forward Andy, was racially abused by players and supporters during a UEFA Youth League match against Atletico Madrid in February.
There has been no response so far from either FIFA or the Croatian Football Association.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.