Healy sorry for gesture

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The Independent Football

Northern Ireland striker David Healy tonight apologised for his flute-playing gesture during a game against Celtic.

The Fulham forward pretended to play the instrument in an apparent mimic of an Orange band member during a friendly on Saturday.

He told Ulster Television: "I am supposed to be a role model and I can only apologise, I can guarantee from my point of view it will never happen again."

Fulham and the Irish Football Association (IFA) are looking into the incident.

Healy claimed his action was a response to stick he was receiving from some of the visiting fans at Fulham's Craven Cottage ground.

"It was one of those regrettable incidents that somebody said something and I made a silly gesture, which ultimately I regret," he added.

IFA chief executive Howard Wells is waiting to speak to Healy before making any judgment.

"I put a call into David to speak to him," he said.

"I'll speak to Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, to see his take on it and I shan't be jumping to any conclusions."

Fulham are also making inquiries over the incident.

A club spokesman said: "The team is in Korea for pre-season. The club is looking into the alleged incident."

Healy's agent, Stephen Hughes, claimed the boyhood Rangers fan had made a jocular response after being asked what he was doing on July 12, when the Orange Order remember the Battle of the Boyne.

Hughes told the Daily Mail: "They were chanting 'Where were you on the 12th?', which is the day of the Orange marching bands in Belfast.

"So he simply pretended to play the flute - there was no attempt to inflame the fans.

"Afterwards, some of the fans who had been giving him stick sent over programmes for him to sign, which he did quite willingly."

The incident revived memories of a similar gesture by Paul Gascoigne as he warmed up at Celtic Park in 1998.

Gascoigne was fined by Rangers for repeating the actions he first used as a goal celebration in a pre-season game in 1995.

Healy was awarded an MBE earlier this year for services to football and the community in Northern Ireland after scoring a record 13 goals during his country's bid to reach Euro 2008.

Last month the 28-year-old headed the largest coaching event to be held in the UK, the David Healy Fitba Day.

More than 2,000 children and 64 coaches, including some from Celtic's community programme, took part in the event in County Tyrone.

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