Porto coach claims misunderstanding in 'racism' row

Porto coach Vitor Pereira tonight claimed Manchester City’s complaint about alleged racial abuse of their players is based on a misunderstanding.

Porto coach Vitor Pereira tonight claimed Manchester City’s complaint about alleged racial abuse of their players is based on a misunderstanding.

City formally complained after monkey noises appeared to be directed towards Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure during the Europa League meeting between the clubs at the Estadio do Dragao last Thursday.

European governing body UEFA today determined Porto have a case to answer as they opened disciplinary proceedings after collating evidence from various parties.

Pereira said he was not aware of any racist abuse during the game and any apparent taunts from home fans may have been chants of, “Hulk, Hulk, Hulk” towards their star player.

Pereira said: “I did not hear any racist comment. So I cannot comment on what I did not hear, I have no idea.

“I hear very often, and Hulk is here so he can comment on that, our supporters many times say, ’Hulk, Hulk, Hulk’, but they are referring to our forward of great quality, as a way of motivating him.

“I was focused only on the match, to see what was happening inside the four lines, and I did not notice any comment that could force the club to make any apologies.”

Pereira was speaking at a press conference as Porto tonight trained at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the second leg of the tie tomorrow.

He was accompanied by Brazilian forward Hulk who, when asked about the issue, said: “I did not notice, I was focused on the match.

“I always hear in the Estadio do Dragao, every time I go for a corner kick, 'Hulk, Hulk, Hulk'. I don’t think there is any racist comment.”

The suspected monkey taunts appeared most noticeable when Balotelli was substituted 12 minutes from time.

City manager Roberto Mancini also did not hear any such chanting at the time but a complaint was made after Balotelli reported it to a club official after the game.

UEFA will now deal with the case next month.

A statement read: “Following a complaint lodged by Manchester City FC, UEFA has today opened disciplinary proceedings against FC Porto for the improper conduct of supporters during their UEFA Europa League round of 32 first-leg match against Manchester City FC last week.

“The UEFA control and disciplinary body will deal with the case on March 29.”

The matter overshadowed a fine second-half performance from City, who came from behind to win 2-1.

Mancini was also asked about it when he gave his pre-match press conference this morning.

He said: “I don’t know what has happened. I was concentrating on the game and I didn’t hear this. But everywhere there are some not clever people, this is life.”

When asked if Balotelli had been upset, he said: “I think Mario for this is strong enough. This was the culture sometimes in Italy or France. Mario is strong.”

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