As Chelsea continue to root out the fans who refused to let Souleymane Sylla board a Paris metro train and sang “we’re racist and that’s the way we like it” at him before Tuesday’s Champions League match against PSG, they used Jose Mourinho’s Friday press conference to publicly apologize to Sylla.
“On behalf of the owner, the board and everybody at Chelsea Football Club, we would like to make it clear our disgust with regard to the incident that took place on the Paris Metro on Tuesday evening,” Chelsea’s communications director read from a statement (see the full version of it here). “We were appalled by what we saw. The club would also like to apologize unreservedly to Souleymane for the behavior of a small number of individuals and their unforgivable actions towards him.”
It was then announced that the club will send a written apology to Sylla and invite him and his family to Stamford Bridge for the second leg against PSG.
Said Jose Mourinho (via Reuters):
“I think he would watch not only the game, but he would feel what Chelsea is,” Mourinho told reporters.
“At this moment he will have the wrong idea of what Chelsea is. He would feel that the people who did this action with him is not Chelsea,” the Portuguese added.
“We feel ashamed but maybe we shouldn’t because I refuse to be connected with these people.” Mourinho said his multi-cultural squad were affected by the incident. “The dressing-room reacted the way I react, with disappointment….. but always with the feeling that we do not belong to these people and they do not belong to us,” Mourinho added.
Chelsea have now suspended five people suspected of involvement in the incident and will ban them for life if the ongoing investigation proves this.
It remains to be seen whether Sylla accepts the club’s apology and invitation (Chelsea fans are raising money to fund their trip), but if he does go, one would hope that he’s shown the respect that he was denied by those supporters in Paris and not paraded in front of cameras as a PR tool to try and demonstrate that racism can be made up for with a free trip to a football match. Or subjected to even more racial abuse from people like this…