Tottenham fan charged with throwing banana skin at Arsenal striker Aubameyang insists: ‘I am NOT racist’

4 Dec

The Tottenham fan charged with throwing a banana skin at Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has insisted he is not racist.

Averof Panteli, a 57-year-old van driver from Norwich, was captured on camera throwing the piece of fruit towards Aubameyang after he had netted the first of two goals in Sunday’s 4-2 win for the Gunners at the Emirates.

The Arsenal forward looks into the crowd in disbelief after seeing the banana land close to him

He was arrested by the police after a steward identified him and was subsequently charged by the Metropolitan Police with throwing a missile onto a football pitch.

Pantelli intends to plead guilty when he appears at Highbury Corner magistrates’ court on December 18.

But, speaking to The Sun, he insisted he threw the banana skin without thinking of the racial implications.

He said: “I am not racist whatsoever. I am actually a Greek Cypriot. I am 100 per cent not a racist. I swear on my kids’ lives that I am not that kind of guy.

“I apologise if I have offended anyone from both clubs, especially Tottenham. It was a mad thing I did and I never meant to offend anyone in any way. I never meant anything by it.

The lifelong Tottenham fan is no longer welcome at the club

“The Arsenal player was gloating in front of the away fans. He came up towards the away fans about 10m away and he is basically nodding his head and clapping at us.

“Without thinking, I picked up this banana skin from the ground and threw it on the edge of the pitch. I didn’t throw it at the players. It was just on the edge of the pitch.

“I am not condoning what I did and I regret it already.”

Pantelli claims he phoned Tottenham to apologise for the incident and was informed by club officials that he was banned for life.

“The police were happy to say it was not racism,” he added.

“I phoned Tottenham to apologise and they said they would be getting in touch with me to ban me for life.

“I have been friends with black people all my life. I do not have a criminal record and I have never been in trouble with the law in my life.

“The only thing I have ever did was run on the pitch at Spurs when I was 14 and I got chucked out of the ground.”

The incident has been condemned by football fans, players and pundits up and down the country.

Vinnie Jones branded the culprit a ‘moron’ and an ‘idiot’ when he spoke to talkSPORT on Monday.

He said: “It lets everyone down.

“We had it with Fash [John Fashanu] a couple of times and I used to say to him, ‘leave it’ and I would go and deal with it for him and I would go and throw it back.

“But Christ, are we still in the Stone Ages? Absolutely ridiculous.

“I mean, the guy should be banned from football for life – that’s a no-brainer. What a moron, absolute idiot.”

Aubameyang scored twice against Spurs and referenced the banana throwing incident on Instagram after the match

Aubameyang took to Instagram after the match and posted a picture of himself next to the banana, with a message: “#whysmandoingthis?”

Three other Tottenham fans were also charged over separate incidents during the north London derby.

Charlie Watts, 26, and Jason Gannon, 36 were charged with throwing a missile onto a football pitch and have been ordered to attend Highbury Corner magistrates’ court on December 18.

Paul Wright, 41, was charged with a public order offence. He will attend Highbury Corner magistrates’ court on December 31.