Championship player sparked pitch brawl by racially abusing opponent, court told

Sheffield Wednesday footballer Fernando Forestieri sparked a mass brawl after racially abusing an opposition player by calling him a “n****r”, a court heard.

The 29-year-old striker allegedly abused Mansfield Town defender Krystian Pearce during a pre-season friendly at the One Call Stadium on July 24 last year because he was “frustrated”.

In a prepared statement, Forestieri said he “swore on his son’s life” he did not racially abuse the Barbados international, claiming he must have been mistaken.

Fernando Forestieri court case
Sheffield Wednesday footballer Fernando Forestieri  arrives at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.

The game, which ended in a 2-1 win for home side Mansfield, ended in a “40-man brawl” after Forestieri was booked for a scissor tackle on defender Hayden White just after the 80th minute.

Mr Pearce confronted Forestieri about the alleged incident after the match but he denied being racist, and apologised if the defender had “misheard”.

Opening the case against the Argentina-born forward, prosecutor Andrew Conboy said: “An incident took place at Mansfield Town Football Club – a designated friendly match which became rather unfriendly at the end.

“Krystian Pearce will give evidence describing the defendant’s attitude as worsening throughout the game and about 80 minutes into the game an incident sparked a reaction from the defendant.

Fernando Forestieri court case
Mansfield Town footballer Krystian Pearce arrives at Mansfield Magistrates Court

“There was a heated exchange of words – Mr Forestieri was speaking mainly in Spanish but used the word ‘n****r’ and ‘shit’.”

Mr Pearce’s manager, David Flitcroft, told the court he felt he had to enter the pitch to pull the defender away from Forestieri after being informed of a “racist incident” by the fourth official.

Mr Flitcroft said: “My gut instinct was to get on the pitch and clear him from the pitch.

Fernando Forestieri court case
Mansfield Town football manager David Flitcroft arrives at Mansfield Magistrates Court.

“When I went on Krystian told me what had been said. That’s when I knew I had to take him off the pitch.”

Addressing what Forestieri said in a voluntary police interview, Mr Conboy said: “He provided a prepared statement and gave an explanation for what he had said in Spanish.

“He initially accepted the he was abusive in Spanish but none of it would have represented any racial hostility.”

Mr Pearce insisted he was not mistaken in the witness box on Thursday.

He said: “I heard him say something. The sentence was in Spanish and in the middle of the sentence he used the word ‘n****r’ and at the end of the sentence he used the word ‘shit’.

“I then reacted to what he had said and told him to repeat it, which he didn’t.

“I tried to notify the referee as soon as I could, I think it must have been around a minute or two later.”

Mr Pearce continued:  “The gaffer then came on to the pitch and took me off the pitch basically.

“I proceeded to go down the tunnel, I think I kicked a bag of balls in frustration.”

In the witness box, Forestieri was asked by his defence solicitor: “Did you at any stage call him a n****r?”

The striker replied:  “No, I never said that, I’m not like that.

“I was very sad because I’m not a racist. The first rule in football is to respect your colleagues.”

In his prepared statement, Forestieri said: “He said to me that I needed to  say sorry to him because he thought I said the ‘N’ word.

Sheffield Wednesday v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Sky Bet Championship – Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday’s Fernando Forestieri celebrates scoring his teams second goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffield.

“He also told me if I don’t say sorry he will go to the police.

“I said I was sorry if that’s what he thought I heard but I swore on my son’s life that that was not what he heard.”

Forestieri added: “I wish to confirm I am not a racist person. I never said the ‘N’ word or anything racist to Mr Pearce as he has alleged or indeed to anyone else.

“I find the accusation deeply upsetting and very offensive.”

Forestieri, of Chambers Grove, Sheffield, denies racially aggravated harassment and using threatening words or behaviour.

The trial continues.

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