Haringey Borough chairman Aki Achillea believes the club’s refusal to play on in the face of alleged racist abuse will prove to be a ‘watershed moment’ for football.
Achillea hopes the decision of manager Tom Loizou and his players to walk off when they were hosting Yeovil Town in the FA Cup nearly two weeks ago will become a “seismic moment” in winning the battle to kick racism and abuse out of the game.
The Isthmian League club’s chairman spoke out in London’s Evening Standard on Wednesday night after seeing his club lose 3-0 to the National League’s Glovers in Tuesday’s rearranged tie in North London.
Both clubs released a joint statement in a show of unity ahead of the match which passed without incident or the unwanted worldwide headlines generated by the original fixture, the first ever at such a senior level to be abandoned because of racism.
Achillea said: “I hope it will be a seismic moment and give strength to others, who have considered taking action.
“We ultimately didn’t set out to make a stand, that wasn’t the aim. The players came off due to vitriolic abuse, including racist abuse, and I hope it is a watershed moment that empowers others.
“This was something thrust upon us and the last ten days have been very, very difficult.”
Despite a midweek attendance of 857 at Coles Park, Achillea added: “We’ve suffered. Financially, the game last night was an absolute disaster but we were compelled to put the game on by the FA. Everyone behaved themselves impeccably.”
“There’s certainly relief [it’s over] There’s a lot of pride. I’m so proud of players – the performance last night was immense – and so proud of the local community who came out to support us.
“I think we made a statement. There were no incidents, it all passed off as a football match, which is what it should have done the first time around.”
After the abandoned tie, Haringey defender Coby Rowe confirmed on Twitter that he’d been a victim of racism while goalkeeper Valery Pajetat was reportedly spat on and had an object thrown at him.
The Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident with Avon and Somerset Police. On Wednesday, police released pictures of three men they want to speak to over allegations of racist comments.
The Metropolitan Police said: “We are appealing for the public’s help to identify three men they would like to speak to as part of an investigation into reports of racist comments made during a football match between Haringey Borough FC and Yeovil Town on Saturday October 19.
“As part of the investigation, two men – aged 23 and 26 – were arrested in Chard and Yeovil on Monday October 21 on suspicion of racially aggravated common assault.
“They have been released on bail to a date in mid-November.” Anyone who was at the football match or who is able to identify the men pictured is asked to call police on 101 quoting CAD 5272/19 Oct.”
Image courtesy of Pinnacle