'Racism rife in Kiwi soccer, rugby' says banned footballer
Former Samoan international striker Tama Fasavalu, who was banned from the sport, has said that racism in rife in New Zealand soccer and rugby world.
Fasavalu, 36, was sentenced to nine months' home detention for resorting to violence on the field for the second to punch referee Len Gattsche, breaking his jaw in three places. Previously he had lashed out at a Waikato player.
He said he was unfairly penalised during the match, an Anzac Day clash against Tauranga City, and was provoked due to racism.
"I do regret my actions that day, but it would never have prevailed if I was treated fair like every other player," Stuff.co.nz quoted Fasavalu, as saying.
According to the report, for his part Gattsche has been remarkably philosophical about the incident, accepting the punch was a momentary flare up, saying "It was only one hit, spur of the moment."
However, he rejected Fasavalu's attempts to blame racism, saying "There certainly was no racism during the game."
Fasavalu's attack on Gattsche is just one in a string of violent episodes in the past year which have tarnished local sport, the report said.
The lawyer who represented Fasavalu in court, helping put forward the claims of racism, was Iuni Sapolu, the mother of Samoan rugby international Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who hit headlines during the Rugby World Cup with his own claims of racism through a tirade of eyebrow-raising messages on Twitter, the repot added.