'Some support would have been very welcome' - Leko speaks out after Casilla ban for racism

‘It has been difficult to watch Kiko Casilla continue to play for such a lengthy period as if nothing had happened,’ said the West Brom forward.

Jonathan Leko warming up for Charlton in September.
Jonathan Leko warming up for Charlton in September.
Image: EMPICS Sport

WEST BROM FORWARD Jonathan Leko has issued a statement criticising footballing authorities, anti-racism bodies and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) for their lack of guidance after Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was found guilty on Friday of racially abusing him during a Championship match almost six months ago.

Casilla, 33, was given an eight-match ban, fined £60,000 and ordered to attend face-to-face education after he was found to have called the then-Charlton loanee a “fucking n****r” during the Addicks’ 1-0 victory over Leeds at the Valley on 28 September.

Leko, 20, and Charlton team-mate Macauley Bonne each separately reported the incident — which was refuted afterwards by Casilla — to referee John Brooks, who included it in his match report.

An independent regulatory commission comprising of Graeme McPherson QC (chairperson), Marvin Robinson and Stuart Ripley concluded it “was satisfied of the evidence in excess of the balance of probabilities” upon the announcement of its decision on Friday. The commission provided a full explanation behind the verdict.

Leko, though, who has increasingly become the subject of abuse on social media since Friday, was less than satisfied with the length of the disciplinary process as well as what he deemed to be a lack of support from relevant bodies since the incident in question.

“I am naturally relieved that the process is now complete and the FA have upheld what I have always known to be true – that I was racially abused by Kiko Casilla in a manner which shocked me and still angers and upsets me to this day,” he said in a statement released by his employers, West Brom.

I have been disappointed with the amount of time it has taken to reach this point. Knowing what occurred in the game that day, it has been difficult to watch Kiko Casilla continue to play for such a lengthy period as if nothing had happened.
I would urge the game’s governing bodies to look into their own processes when such incidents are reported. It was 22 weeks between the incident and the hearing during which I had minimal contact from the PFA, of which I am a member, and no contact in the way of support from leading anti-racism bodies such as ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘Show Racism The Red Card’. Some support or guidance would have been very welcome.

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“By bringing the incident to the referee’s attention immediately”, Leko added, “I was only doing what I have been educated to do throughout my career. But I found the hearing, at which I was made to feel I had done something wrong, extremely stressful.

It made me question whether I would be prepared to go through it all again were I on the receiving end of similar abuse in the future. I certainly would think twice about how to advise another player placed in the same situation.

“From the outset, all I have done is report something that had to be challenged and exposed for what it is – racial abuse.

“I now want to put the episode behind me and concentrate on recovering from my injury to be ready for next season,” concluded the Congolese-born Englishman, who suffered cruciate ligament damage in December before returning to his parent club for treatment.

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