Spanish FA fines Aragones £2,000 for Henry slur

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The Independent Online

The Spain coach, Luis Aragones, was last night fined €3,000 (£2,000) by his employers, the Spanish Football Association, for his racist slur against Thierry Henry.

The Spain coach, Luis Aragones, was last night fined €3,000 (£2,000) by his employers, the Spanish Football Association, for his racist slur against Thierry Henry.

The punishment was the result of a drawn-out investigation into Aragones attempting to "motivate" Jose Antonio Reyes by telling him he was better than "that black shit" - a reference to Henry, Reyes' Arsenal team-mate. Aragones made his comments last October, during a Spain training session, with a television crew listening in.

The 66-year-old later dug himself deeper into a hole when attempting to justify his remark, by referring to Reyes as "a gypsy". He was called upon in early February to explain his remarks, with the Spanish FA determining whether he had brought the game into disrepute.

Their verdict indicates they have found Aragones in the wrong, but his offence has not been deemed serious enough to warrant a suspension of his duties, or his sacking. He could have been suspended for two years.

A statement from the Spanish FA explained their verdict - an aggregate punishment for his comments regarding Henry and also a criticism of Great Britain's colonial past prior to November's match against England.

The statement read: "The committee, after studying the evidence, have decided to fine Luis Aragones €3,000 because of his declarations before the Spain versus England match - an event marred by racist chanting from the crowd. His declaration was considered racist by many people, especially the English."

The statement also added that Alfredo Florez, the committee president, felt the incident was "not of great seriousness".

Aragones did apologise publicly for causing offence after the episode which preceded a World Cup qualifying game against Belgium. But he also stressed, in the run-up to November's match against England, that his conscience was clear, albeit in a manner which led to further criticism.

"I know who is racist. I remember the colonies. There are some people who have run after them like wolves after prey," he declared.

England players made a public stand in their training session in Madrid, pointedly wearing anti-racism T-shirts.

The Spain coach has not made a personal apology to Henry, even though the Spanish Football Federation have apologised formally to Arsenal. "I have not said anything to Thierry Henry and he knows what it is to motivate a person," he said in November.

"Reyes spoke to him about what happened... I don't want to talk about that any more. We have common friends. I have apologised publicly. It has been taken out of context to motivate a player and I am sure Henry knows that."

The director general of Spain's Upper Sports Council, Rafael Blanco, dismissed the possibility of there being a link between Aragones' words and increasingly racist crowd behaviour in Spain.

Blanco said recently: "Luis is not responsible for the outbreaks of racism is stadiums. That would be simplifying things and a big injustice."

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