London Metropolitan police charged four men over incidents related to Sunday’s north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, which the Gunners won 4-2.
Among them, British Cypriot, Averof Panteli 57, a van driver from Norwich, who allegedly threw a banana at Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
According to the Guardian, the Gabonese striker had scored the first of his two goals from the penalty spot when he ran to celebrate in front of the travelling supporters. A host of projectiles were thrown at him, with still photography showing that a banana skin was among them.
Il tifoso del #Tottenham che ha lanciato una buccia di banana in direzione di #Aubameyang è stato arrestato e bandito a vita dagli stadi. #90minuto torna domenica prossima #tifosi #calcio #educhiamoli ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/tON5oEo7qE
— 90° Minuto Rai (@90minutoRai) December 3, 2018
Panteli claimed he found the banana skin on the ground at the Emirates Stadium and hurled it without thinking of the racial implications.
He told the Sun: “I am not racist whatsoever. I am actually a Greek Cypriot. I am 100 per cent not a racist. I swear on my kids’ lives that I am not that kind of guy.
“I apologise if I have offended anyone from both clubs, especially Tottenham. It was a mad thing I did and I never meant to offend anyone in any way. I never meant anything by it.
“I have been charged with throwing an object. I am not charged with anything racist. The police were happy to accept it was not racist. I have made a big mistake and I am sincerely sorry for it.
“The Arsenal player was gloating in front of the away fans. He came up towards the away fans and is basically nodding his head and clapping at us. The fans at the front were getting upset and shouting and swearing.
“Without thinking, I picked up this banana skin and threw it on the edge of the pitch. I didn’t throw it at the players. It was just on the edge of the pitch.’
He said he intends to plead guilty to throwing a missile on the pitch when he appears at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on December 31.
The FA, however, have dropped their probe into the flashpoint after police ruled the incident was not racially aggravated.
He added that he phoned Tottenham to apologise and was told by club officials that he was banned for life.
“I regretted it after a few seconds’, he added. ‘I thought, ‘s***, what did I do?’ It was not meant to be racist but it was completely wrong and I will take my punishment.
“I am deeply sorry. It is totally out of character. I didn’t think of the racist connotations. If I had thrown an apple or a pear, it would have been OK — but because it was a banana, it wasn’t.
Panteli claimed the banana had been eaten by a young boy at the game with his father. ‘They just left the skin on the ground and I picked it up. I certainly did not bring it to the ground. I am not condoning what I did and I regret it already.”
Stewards and police approached him about five to 10 minutes after the incident to escort him from the grounds after they reviewed CCTV footage.
He was taken to Wood Green police station and charged with throwing an object on the pitch after the police accepted he had not acted in a deliberately racist way.
“They were happy to say it was not racism. I have got black people in my family. I have got nephews in London with black partners and they have kids. I grew up in Tottenham, where 70 per cent of people are black. I have been friends with black people all my life. I do not have a criminal record and I have never been in trouble with the law in my life,” he said.
CCTV footage was used to confirm the identify of the fan who threw it and he was arrested.
The FA will investigate and Tottenham released a statement that condemned the supporter who threw the banana skin. “Behaviour such as this is completely unacceptable and the supporter in question will be issued with a ban,” a spokesman said.
Emery condemns banana throwing incident pic.twitter.com/E5ze4mq7Dn
— Sport360TV (@Sport360TV) December 4, 2018