Santalab moves on after racial abuse case dropped

FOOTBALL 

Western Sydney's Brendon Santalab is "pleased" the racial abuse case against him has been dropped and is now ready to move on, according to coach Tony Popovic.

The Wollongong-bred striker was on Thursday cleared of racially vilifying Sydney FC midfielder Ali Abbas, with Football Federation Australia's independent disciplinary committee claiming there was a lack of evidence and the possibility Abbas misheard the comments. The decision came almost five weeks after Abbas alleged he was subjected to slurs against his culture and religion during the heated Sydney derby at Allianz Stadium on March 8.

The Sky Blues slammed the ruling and said it stood by Abbas's claims.

Popovic on Friday refused to comment on the detail of the findings, other than to say both he and Santalab were glad it had drawn to close.

"We're pleased that the process is over," he said ahead of Saturday's final-round clash with Melbourne Heart.

"It's probably gone on longer than anyone would've liked, but that's done now and we move forward.

"We had a chat to him [Santalab] this morning about a few things as a group and I just pulled him aside, just had a quick word with him.

"His focus is clearly on tomorrow."

The committee's reasons for dropping the charge have sparked heated debate among fans and even players.

Adelaide's Bruce Djite labelled as "disgusting" the view that the loud noise at Allianz Stadium may have been a contributing factor.

"Abbas must have misheard cause crowds in Sydney much louder than those Anfield & cause English inst his 1st language. #MyOpinion #Disgusted," Djite posted on Twitter.

"The best thing about this is that the FFA dealt with it oh so swiftly... Hope everyone can hear my sarcasm. #AliHeardLoudAndClear."

His sentiments were echoed by Abbas's agent, Paddy Dominguez, who told Fairfax Media some of the committee's reasoning was "extraordinary" and felt his client had been let down by the process.

Asked whether he believed such concerns were legitimate, Popovic replied: "As I just said, the process is over. A decision's been made and we move forward now."

Santalab will still travel to Melbourne with the squad, but won't know whether he'll play until game day.

"From seeing him this morning, he looks fine and we hope he can take that mindset into tomorrow," Popovic said.

AAP

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