Uefa has appointed an ethics and disciplinary inspector to investigate the Austria striker Marko Arnautovic’s reaction to his goal against North Macedonia.
The Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) called on Uefa to investigate Arnautovic’s remarks towards Macedonian supporters after his late strike in their Euro 2020 game on Sunday.
Arnautovic has denied using racist language during the match against North Macedonia in Bucharest, but apologised for his reaction towards opposition fans after scoring in the 89th minute of Austria’s 3-1 win. The Austria captain, David Alaba, stepped in to restrain an apparently furious Arnautovic while he was celebrating his goal.
“There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise – especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania,” Arnautovic, whose father is Serbian, said on Instagram. “I would like to say one thing very clearly: I am not a racist. I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that.”
Initial media reports suggested that the 32-year-old’s anger was also directed at Macedonian players Egzon Bejtulai and Ezgjan Alioski, both of whom have Albanian roots. The FFM’s official statement, released on Facebook on Monday, claims that Arnautovic’s remarks were aimed at Alioski.
“The FFM strongly condemns the nationalistic outburst of Austrian player Marko Arnautovic, after a goal scored in yesterday’s match, addressed to Ezgjan Alioski,” a statement said. “At the same time, we inform you that we have submitted an official letter to Uefa demanding the harshest punishment for Arnautovic.”
“We are always against nationalism, discrimination and all other forms of insults and outbursts that are not in the spirit of football and values that we all stand together. We will always stand up and defend the interests and dignity of Macedonian national players wherever they perform.”
Serbia does not recognise the independence of its former province Kosovo, while there is historic tension between Serbia and North Macedonia. At the 2018 World Cup, Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are both of Albanian-Kosovan heritage, received fines for gestures made during their match against Serbia.
Arnautovic, a former Stoke City and West Ham player, is currently based in China with Shanghai Port. In their next Group C games, Austria take on the Netherlands at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on Thursday, while North Macedonia play Ukraine in Bucharest.
• Additional reporting by Filip Mishov.