U.K. police have interviewed Arsenal FC and Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka for using racially inflammatory language in public.
Xhaka, who is of Albanian ancestry, was accused of throwing racial slurs at a member of staff at Heathrow Airport on Monday night, reports the Telegraph. He was reportedly visibly upset when his friend, German sixth division footballer Leonard Lekaj, who is also a brother to Xhaka’s fiancée Leonita Lekaj, was denied entry to a Germany-bound flight because he arrived late for boarding.
Eyewitnesses say Xhaka verbally assaulted an airport staff with racial slurs, saying the words “f—— White b—–” in German, causing airport security to be called in.
Afterward, the police took Xhaka, 24, to a West London police station for further questioning. Xhaka, a midfielder who moved to Arsenal from German club Borussia Mönchengladbach at a fee of about $38 million, however, denied using the purported offensive language, maintaining that his speech was not directed at anyone.
Still, a statement issued by the London Metropolitan Police reads in part:
Police were called at 7:29 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23rd, following an allegation that a member of staff had been racially abused at Heathrow Airport, Terminal Five. The allegation was made by a third party.
Officers attended and spoke with a man in his 20s. He was not arrested. He voluntarily attended a West London police station, where he was interviewed under caution. Inquiries continue.
Racism within competitive sports, particularly football, is widespread and remains a continuing challenge for sports administrators. There have been several incidents, where fans and spectators racially abuse non-White players, especially Black players with the infamous “monkey chants.”
Football authorities typically respond by banning the offending spectators from match venues, slamming fines on the team with the unruly fans, or in rare cases, imposing a match point deduction.