LONDON – A Tottenham fan was fined on Tuesday for throwing a banana skin at Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after a court ruled it was a targeted incident with a “racial element”.
Averof Panteli admitted hurling the item on to the pitch at the Emirates Stadium after the Gabon striker scored and celebrated in front of Spurs’ travelling support on December 2.
The 57-year-old van driver said he threw the banana skin in a “spur of the moment” action, but strongly denied there was any racist intent, a magistrates’ court in London heard.
But magistrate Mervyn Mandell said: “We find it was a targeted gesture to throw a banana skin after a goal was scored by a black player. We have in the circumstances found the racial element was there.”
Panteli was handed a four-year football banning order after pleading guilty to throwing a missile and was also fined £500.
Leila Rasool, mitigating, said Panteli had been going to Tottenham games for 50 years without incident, and was of “exemplary character”, but had since been banned for life by the club.
She told the court: “It was a spur of the moment thing. He picked up the closest article to him and that happened to be a banana skin.
“He realised the grave error he had made. He has not been charged for any racially aggravated public order offence.”
After the pulsating 4-2 derby win, Premier League joint top-scorer Aubameyang posted a picture of himself on social media with the caption: “whysmandoingthis?” accompanied by a banana emoji.
The incident triggered a fresh debate about racism in football, with former Arsenal striker-turned-pundit Ian Wright saying it had “embarrassed” the Premier League.
Raheem Sterling was subsequently subjected to alleged racial abuse during Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea – the Stamford Bridge club banned four supporters pending an investigation.
Chelsea also condemned anti-Semitic chanting from some of their fans during last week’s Europa League tie with Vidi in Budapest.
The Premier League called on supporters to back their teams in the right way and for fans to report any abuse.