FFA probes A-League racism claims

Wanderers' Brendon Santalab had a heated exchange with Ali Abbas on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Wanderers' Brendon Santalab had a heated exchange with Ali Abbas on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


Newcastle striker Joel Griffiths admits copping a ban for racially abusing a linesman last year taught him a lesson and says any such vilification in the A-League should attract firm punishment.

Sydney FC midfielder Ali Abbas has sparked a probe following his side's 3-1 win over Western Sydney on Saturday, claiming he was the victim of slurs against his religion and culture during the heated derby.

Sydney FC on Monday lodged an official complaint with Football Federation Australia (FFA), who will investigate the matter.

Griffiths received a three-match ban while playing for Sydney FC in February last year for a racial term shouted at a linesman.

"I got three weeks for saying something which I regret and that's helped me out in the long term to realise maybe I should think about what I say more," Griffiths said.

"You just have to be aware those comments obviously offend people and viewers as well so you've got to be professional, which is why I accepted that punishment."

Abbas, who was born in Iraq and became an Australian citizen in 2012, was visibly furious after the final whistle on Saturday.

He engaged in a heated exchange with Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab, with several players stepping in to separate them.

Griffiths, who played alongside Abbas at both the Jets and Sydney, said he had been in contact with him over social media.

He said he did not know what comments were made but felt it must have been something quite offensive as it was "out of Ali's character to actually carry on like he did".

Griffiths, who was banned again this season for two games after a tirade against a referee in his comeback game for the Jets, conceded comments could be made in the heat of the moment without enough thought for their implication or impact.

He insisted, however, that racial abuse should be stamped out of the game.

"I know in the heat of the battle you say some stupid things and you regret it afterwards, which is what I've done," he said.

"I've been found guilty on a couple of occasions for saying things I regret.

"Five seconds later, I think 'why did I say that?'.

"I've gotten punishment for a racial comment.

"If they go down that path, then I think the player has to accept it because the bottom line stops with the FFA.

"This is something the game doesn't need."

Santalab told Fairfax bad blood between the two began in a previous clash but he would not elaborate on what was said between them on the field.

"I was unhappy in the last derby. He's unhappy this time, so it makes it one-one," he said.

"Whatever happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch."

There is no clear timeline for the dispute process, with FFA guidelines noting that it may include attempts at mediation or referral straight to a tribunal.

If it goes to a full hearing, witnesses may be called and possibly include Sydney FC striker Corey Gameriro, who tweeted after the game that he was "disgusted to what I heard tonight #SAYNOTORACISM".

Meanwhile, Western Sydney will need a swift turnaround with an Asian Champions League clash against Guizhou Renhe looming on Wednesday.

The club departed for China on Sunday and can ill-afford to drop more points in the competition.

with AAP


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