Paris Saint-Germain star striker Neymar admitted that he “acted like a fool” and regrets his actions that led to him receiving a red card during the Ligue 1 match against Olympique de Marseille on Sunday. Marseille beat PSG 1-0 for the first time in nine years.
Neymar was given a red card after VAR showed him hitting the back of Marseille player Alvaro Gonzalez’s head. He told match officials that he was racially abused by Gonzalez, prompting him to retaliate to the insult.
The Brazilian forward, while saying he regretted his actions, also said that it is important for officials and those in power to take on racism on the field.
Neymar had at the time taken to Twitter to say that his only regret was not hitting Gonzalez in the face.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, denied that he racially abused Neymar, adding that the PSG player needs to “learn how to lose and accept it on the field”.
In a statement, Neymar, who has received “strong support” from PSG, said that while insults and swearing are part of the sport, racism and intolerance are unacceptable.
“Yesterday I revolted. I was punished with red because I wanted to hit someone who offended me. I thought I could not leave without doing something because I realised that those in charge would not do anything, did not notice or ignored the fact. During the game, I wanted to answer as always: playing football. The facts showed that I did not succeed. I revolted...
“In our sport, aggressions, insults, swearing are part of the game, of the dispute. You can’t be affectionate. I understand this guy partly, all is part of the game, but racism and intolerance are unacceptable.
“I am black, son of black, grandson and great-grandson of black also. I am proud and do not see myself as different from anyone. Yesterday, I wanted those in charge of the game (referees, assistants) to position themselves impartially and to understand that there is no longer such a place for a prejudiced attitude.
“Reflecting and seeing all the manifestation of what happened, I am saddened by the feeling of hatred that we can provoke when, in the heat of the moment, we snap.
“Should I have ignored it? I don’t know yet... Today, with a cool head, I say yes, but in due course, my companions and I asked the referees for help and we were ignored. That’s the point!
“We who are involved in entertainment need to reflect. An action led to a reaction and got where it did. I accept my punishment because I should have followed the path of clean football. I hope, on the other hand, that the offender will also be punished.
“Racism exists. It exists, but we have to stop it. No more. Enough!
“The guy was a fool. I also acted like a fool for letting me get involved in that... I still have the privilege of keeping my head up today, but we all need to reflect that not all black and white people are in the same condition.
“The damage from the confrontation can be disastrous to both sides. Whether you are black or white, I don't want to and we shouldn't mix subjects. Skin colour we don’t choose. Before God, we are all equal.
“Now, yesterday, I lost in the game and I lacked wisdom. Being in the centre of this situation or ignoring a racist act will not help. I know. But pacifying this ‘anti-racism’ movement is our obligation so that the less privileged will naturally receive their defence.
“We will meet again and it will be my way: playing football. Stay in peace! Stay in Peace! You know what you said... I know what I did. More love to the world.”