Luton Town's French midfielder Arnaud Mendy expressed his dismay at the racism storm engulfing Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round opponents Millwall and said he hopes that no abuse is meted out to him when the team's meet at Kenilworth Road.
Millwall are the focus of a new racism inquiry following the exposé on Sky Sports of fans chanting racist abuse at Leeds striker El-Hadji Diouf at the Den. A total of 56 separate incidents were recorded during the match in November.
Mendy, from Rouen, said he had never suffered racist abuse in France or in England, where he previously played for Macclesfield. "I don't know exactly what I think but it's no good thing. They should stop it. I don't know why they are doing this. I was just thinking: 'I hope they're not going to do the same thing to me'.
"It's very shocking. I didn't know they could do this any more. To stay strong sometimes is hard. Sometimes to walk off it would be better. To stop the game. It depends what the referee says. It will be the referee's decision."
Danny Shittu, the Millwall captain, sympathised with the sentiment and insisted he would stop a game if he heard racist abuse. The 32-year-old defender said: "I don't think any player would hear such a thing and carry on playing. I'm sure if I did I would have reacted and made it known things like that are being said." Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng recently stopped a game when he was subjected to abuse in Italy and was widely praised.
Shittu said: "I give him a lot of respect for that because I know a lot of people who would have reacted in a worse way. For you to just walk off the pitch – all respect to that."
Tomorrow's tie between non-League Luton and Championship side Millwall invokes memories of the London side's last visit to Kenilworth Road in this competition 28 years ago which saw some of the worst violence at a football ground in Britain. But the Luton chief executive, Gary Sweet, said that every measure had been taken to ensure that the match would pass without incident and expressed sympathy with Millwall over the racism storm.
"We get on with Millwall very well. They are working very hard to improve that image. Thankfully we do not have a racism issue at Luton."
Security has been ramped up to cater for a full house. Sweet said: "We have been in contact with Millwall daily and had an executive meeting here. Interest is inevitable. I'm not surprised by it. But we have moved on socially in this country. Football stadia are safe environments and it will be a safe environment on Saturday.
"I would not say we welcome the attention of 1985 because it is something we would rather forget but I'm happy to make people aware that we are handling it properly. We are confident it will go smoothly."