Edinson Cavani’s team-mates past and present have jumped to the defence of the Manchester United striker over his three-match ban for discriminatory language, with Ander Herrera claiming it shows the “world is going to s---”.
The Uruguay striker had accepted a FA misconduct charge and “aggravated breach” of its race rules over his “Gracias negrito” Instagram post out of “solidarity” with the fight against racism.
Despite his suspension, United insisted Cavani is “not a racist, nor was there any racist intent to his post” and, while dismayed the player had been charged, called on the FA to reinvest his £100,000 fine into anti-discrimination iniatives, a request the governing body seems set to honour.
A spokesperson for the governing body told The Daily Telegraph: “The FA is a not-for-profit organisation which distributes all profits back into every level of the game each season. This includes investment into a number of key equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives across English football.”
Yet Cavani’s ban has been met with disappointment by current and former team-mates. Former United midfielder Herrera, who played with Cavani at Paris Saint-Germain, wrote: “If they ban you for that. The world is going to s***. Big hugs and stay strong Edi.”
Cavani’s United team-mate Marcos Rojo, the Argentina defender, added: “Those who know you know the kind of person you are!!!”
Cavani had come off the substitutes bench to score twice in United’s 3-2 win at Southampton in November but found himself in hot water with the FA after reposting a message from a close friend on Instagram along with the words “Gracias negrito”, which translates as “Thanks, little black”.
Cavani - who deleted the post and issued a swift apology after it was explained that the term is considered offensive in this country - explained in his written submission to the FA that the friend he was responding to carries that specific nickname and that it can be used in an affectionate sense in his culture in South America.
Following the ban, Cavani posted a long apology on Instagram with the caveat that he did not agree with the action taken.
He wrote: “Hello everyone, I do not want to extend much in this uncomfortable moment for me. I want to share with you that I accept the disciplinary sanction knowing that I am foreign to English language customs, but I do not share the point of view.
“I apologise if I offended someone with an expression of affection towards a friend, nothing further was my intention. Those who know me know that my effort is to always seek the simplest joy and friendship!
“I appreciate the countless expressions of support and affection. My heart is at peace because I know that I always expressed myself with affection according to my culture and way of life. I send you a sincere hug.”
As well as the Premier League game against Aston Villa on Friday night, Cavani will miss United’s Carabao Cup semi-final at home to Manchester City on Wednesday and the FA Cup third-round tie against Watford at Old Trafford three days later.