London - Manchester City's under-21 team walked off the pitch during a friendly against Croatian side after one of their players was racially abused, the club has claimed.
But officials of the Croatian club denied any racist slur took place and accused the English side of trying to hide what they claimed was an overly-physical approach to the game.
“Manchester City's EDS (elite development squad) U21 game with HNK Rijeka has today been cancelled due to an alleged incident of racial abuse toward the club's young midfielder, Seko Fofana by a member of the opposing team,” read a statement published on the City website late on Tuesday.
“Club representatives in Croatia and in Manchester are liaising with officials, the match organisers and the Croatian Football Association to pursue this matter further.”
City's officials told their players to leave the pitch shortly before half-time during the game in Novigrad, west Croatia.
Fofana, a 19-year-old Frenchman, had just been sent off for what City's Twitter feed described as an “off-the-ball incident”.
HNK Rijeka, who were leading 1-0 when the match was abandoned, expressed surprise over City's decision to abandon the game.
“Manchester City coach Patrick Vieira entered the field, discussed something with the referee, and then to the amazement of a well-filled stadium, took his team off the pitch,” youth-team coordinator Ranko Buketa told the club's website. “The reasons are known only to him.”
Meanwhile, in a statement published on its website, HNK Rijeka “clearly and unambiguously” rejected “any possibility” that its players took part in “insulting of opponent players on racial, religious or national basis.”
“We see the accusations for the alleged racism that we are facing as a move aimed at covering up an ugly foul of a Manchester City player which led to a dismissal and also a harsh and illogical decision of Manchester City to take the team off the pitch,” Buketa said in a statement.
“We are surprised that it was made by responsible people from such a respectable club as Manchester City,” he stressed.