Aragones apologises after racist insult

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The Independent Football

Luis Aragones, the Spain coach, has apologised for his racist slur aimed at Thierry Henry. Aragones claims he had been trying to motivate Henry's Arsenal team-mate, Jose Antonio Reyes, during Wednesday's training session, ahead of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Belgium.

Television microphones picked him up referring to Henry, using racist language while telling Reyes that he was the better player of the two.

Reaction in Spain has been muted and Aragones has received the official backing of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and many players.

The Spain defender Michel Salgado defended his coach and then blamed the media for exacerbating the incident and for taking Aragones' remarks "out of context".

But the incident has had a greater impact in England and France, putting Aragones under pressure. Now he has issued an official apology on the RFEF's website. "In the first place, I want to make it clear that my intention was never to offend anyone," he said. "For that motive, I have to say that I have a clear conscience.

"What I said can only be interpreted in the atmosphere of the team and of a coach who has the obligation to motivate my players to obtain the best results. To do this, I was using colloquial language. All I can do is apologise to the people who could feel offended and repeat it was never my intention to disrespect anyone."