Players nearly walked off pitch over racist abuse, says Dover manager | Football
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler and Hartlepool United’s Craig Hignett said they discussed taking their players off the pitch due to alleged racist abuse in Saturday’s National League game.
Dover won the match 2-0 at Hartlepool’s Victoria Park but the game was overshadowed by the incidents, which followed Dover players celebrating striker Inih Effiong’s 37th-minute penalty in front of home fans.
A confrontation followed which led to an 11-minute delay in play, during which players – including Gus Mafuta of Hartlepool – are understood to have received racist abuse from a small minority in the stands.
The match ended amid further acrimony with Hartlepool having two players and Hignett sent off for criticising refereeing decisions, while a home fan appeared to try to get to the referee after invading the pitch.
The club’s chief executive, Mark Maguire, condemned the abuse on Saturday night, saying those involved “will be dealt with in the strongest manner” by the club and police. “I can honestly say that I have never witnessed a game of football like that,” said Maguire, “but it is important that we separate our reaction to the game, and the officials, to the events following Dover’s first goal.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision, or the aftermath to the penalty which was scored, Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description. We are proudly inclusive as a club, and we know that the vast majority of Pools fans will join us in standing up against words and actions which have no place in football or society.”
Hessenthaler said he had been ready to take his players off, telling the Northern Echo: “At half-time we were calm. I spoke to Craig and at one stage I wanted to come off the pitch – and Craig agreed with me.
“He was saying the same, we backed each other up, but the players wanted to carry on and credit to them … We spoke and their players wanted to carry on too. I didn’t like what was going on. I felt it in my stomach … It’s a crazy day, and a sad day for football.”
Hignett said: “We are a very inclusive club and we deal with it if we have to. I asked Gus if he was OK and he assured me he was and that was that really. I said to Andy, ‘If that’s what you feel then I’m behind you’.”
Hartlepool defender Peter Kioso posted on Instagram after the match: “I’m angry and disappointed with how the small majority of fans have acted today. No player should be on the receiving end of racism … In this day and age we as black players shouldn’t be dealing with this type of thing on a football pitch or anywhere in the world.”
Midfielder Gavan Holohan was among other players to react online, tweeting: “To the 99% of fans that come support us week in, week out home and away thanks for your support – you are the lifeblood of the club. To the 1% who racially abused a player you are the poison and not what the club represents. No place for it in society never mind football.”