FOOTBALL: Cantona commercial attacks violence

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The Independent Online
Eric Cantona denounced violence in sport when he appeared in a television commercial last night - just a day after he was sentenced to two weeks in prison for attacking a fan at Crystal Palace in January.

The Manchester United player was freed on bail on Thursday pending an appeal after pleading guilty to the charge of common assault when he appeared before Croydon Magistrates.

Now he has teamed up with the Queen's Park Rangers striker, Les Ferdinand, to make a 30-second commercial promoting the sportswear company, Nike, to attack racism in sport.

"Is it OK to shout racial abuse at me just because I am on the football pitch?" they ask, the camera switching from one to the other as they deliver phrases to complete sentences.

"I know that violence is not acceptable in sport," Cantona says. "So why should we accept hatred?" asks Ferdinand. "Why argue about differences? I'd rather play football," they conclude.

Nike have insisted they are not cashing in on the incident - or the subsequent trial - by making the commercial. "The commercial's been planned for some weeks, way before the Crystal Palace incident," Scott Garrett, the European advertising manager, said.

Daniel Amokachi, Everton's Nigerian international striker, will be free to join Eintracht Frankfurt once the season is over - provided the German club agree to meet an asking price of around £1.7m.

Eintracht have mounted a Europe-wide search for a goalscorer to replace Anthony Yeboah, who is now with Leeds United, and yesterday confirmed that Amokachi headed their list.

Amokachi became Everton's first major black signing when Mike Walker paid Club Bruges £3m for him last September, but he has not started a match since Joe Royle's first game as manager, in November. Duncan Ferguson's suspension and injury to Paul Rideout mean Amokachi is required as cover.

David Platt was yesterday suspended from both European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final legs against Arsenal. The Sampdoria midfielder and England captain was sent off towards the end of the penalty shoot-out win against Porto.

Rob Witschge, Blackburn's deadline-day loan signing, was yesterday banned from European competition for three games. Witschge and two of his former Feyenoord team-mates, Peter Bosz and Josef Kiprich who also received three-game bans, were suspended after incidents in the Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-final against Real Zaragoza.

The Football Association has no plans to take any action over an alleged off-field scuffle between the Arsenal striker, Ian Wright, and Manchester United captain, Steve Bruce, during this week's Premiership meeting.

Gerry Francis, the Tottenham manager, yesterday won some vital semi- final breathing space after Newcastle United softened their attitude over a re-arranged Premiership date.

Francis was scheduled to take his squad to St James' Park on 5 April - four days before the FA Cup match against Everton. The game is now on 3 May.

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