Morocco’s Regragui denies making racist comments at AFCON; says he's received death threats

AP , Tuesday 23 Jan 2024

Morocco coach Walid Regragui denied making any racist comments to Congo captain Chancel Mbemba after their team’s heated Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) encounter and said he had received death threats in the fallout.

Morocco s head coach Walid Regragui reacts during the African Cup of Nations Group F football match between Morocco and DR Congo, at the Laurent Pokou stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. Photo: AP


“The debate to say that I used racist words is simply shameful and I’ll defend my image to the end,” Regragui said on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, with social networks, with what is happening in the world, with the hatred there can be on both sides, I received racist messages and death threats. Unfortunately, I think the player also received them on his side. It shows we’ve reached extremes for football matches and it’s shameful.”

Regragui and Mbemba had a heated exchange after their match ended 1-1 in San Pedro on Sunday. It led to a melee between players and officials from both teams that continued as they left the field and went down the players’ tunnel.

Mbemba implied to journalists after the game that Regragui insulted him.

“I never thought I’d hear that word from the coach, that it would come from his mouth,” said Mbemba, who is Black and faced a torrent of racist abuse online after the game.

Mbemba’s Instagram account was targeted by users who replied to his latest posts with monkey or gorilla emojis, or wrote racist comments.

“There were things said after the match ended that were not true,” Regragui said on Tuesday. “I did not insult the player.”

TV replays showed Regragui seeking Mbemba after the game when the player was on his knees giving thanks in a personal moment. Mbemba took Regragui’s hand and clapped him on the back. But Regragui kept hold of Mbemba’s hand and carried on talking. He appeared to be saying, “Look at me.” The player angrily pulled his hand away and gestured for the video referee before players from both sides jumped in.

“What I did after the match, I do it all the time,” Regragui said. “Maybe there was tension there and I should have let it go when he didn’t look at me. From now on I will go shake the coach’s hand and that’s it.”

He added: “It hurt me and it affected my family. In his interview, he never spoke of racism. It’s society that’s sick. People are taking advantage of it and it’s getting worse. And there are bad people on both sides. I’m here to calm things down. I condemn the messages he received and mine.”

The African Football Confederation is looking into the post-match incidents and said it will not make any comments on the matter until its investigation was completed.

Regragui was speaking ahead of Morocco’s final group game against Zambia on Wednesday. Morocco leads Group F.

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