The alleged racial abuse occurred in the second half of Hertha Berlin's 3-2 defeat at Schalke in their German Cup match on Tuesday. After the game had gone into extra time, Jordan Torunarigha was brought down in a sliding tackle and fell into Schalke coach David Wagner. The Hertha defender, a German of Nigerian descent, then picked up a case of drinks and slammed it down, leading to his sending off for a second bookable offense. Wagner was also ejected.
On Thursday, Torunarigha used his Instagram account to break his silence on the matter:
"I was born in Germany, I grew up here, I graduated from high school here, I speak German like everybody else, so I can't understand these comments made by a few idiots during the game," he said.
"You can't choose the color of your skin at birth and it shouldn't matter in the first place. Different skin color, religion and origin should be just as natural in society as it is among us athletes in the dressing room."
Too late for 'three-step solution'
Hertha officials have said that they informed the referee about the alleged abuse at the end of regulation time. Under FIFA guidelines the referee is advised to respond to such situations by stopping the game and asking the PA announcer to tell the crowd to refrain from such abuse - as the first step in a "three-step solution."
However, Peter Sippel, who heads the German Football Assocation's (DFB) training program for match officials, told ARD public television that this was no longer possible in this case, as the incident had taken place around 20 minutes earlier.
The DFB has launched a probe into the incident, while Schalke, who have apologized to the player, have pledged to impose harsh sanctions if and when the culprits are found.
A police spokesman in Gelsenkirchen, where Schalke are based, said they have launched an investigation on suspicion of verbal abuse. Schalke have said they're cooperating with the police and security services.
"The club has zero tolerance for such behavior. We will do everything we can to find those responsible and impose sanctions," read a statement issued by Schalke's board of directors on Wednesday.
Support from peers
After the final whistle on Tuesday, Hertha captain Niklas Stark, who said he had heard monkey noises coming from the stands, called on the entire football community in Germany to support Torunarigha. He has has been getting a lot of support through social media, including from stars like Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, who said via Twitter that he was "speechless" and couldn't believe that something like this could happen in Germany in 2020.
The allegations are just the latest of several incidents of racism that have marred European football in recent years.
pfd/ (dpa, SID)