Racism: Henry urged to meet Aragones

December 15, 2005

UEFA's plan for Thierry Henry and Luis Aragones to put on a united front at an anti-racism conference next year appears doomed to failure.

Aragones has yet to publicly apologise for his racist comment about Henry, made to Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes during a Spain training session more than a year ago.

It led to a paltry fine of just £2,060, a decision Henry criticised, especially in the wake of the racist abuse later directed at England players during their friendly in Madrid last November.

Pertinently, however, there is no chance of Henry being in two places at once as the second 'uniteagainstracism' conference at Barcelona's Nou Camp takes place on February 1, the same night Arsenal host West Ham in a Barclays Premiership clash at Highbury.

UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson had apparently claimed a meeting between the two, on such a high-profile stage, would be 'a gesture' in the war on racism.

But following a meeting of UEFA's executive committee in Nyon, Olsson today claimed the story 'had very little basis,' although readily acknowledged Henry as a role model.

'It would be good if he could attend,' said Olsson.

'He is one of those people who can communicate in a proper way against racism. He has been a good ambassador throughout his career.'

Players' union chief Gordon Taylor believes the prospect of such a stage-managed event will not be possible until Aragones recognises his words caused offence and offers a meaningful apology.

He told PA Sport: 'If there was an apology, I'm sure Thierry would consider accepting it but, at the moment, the culpability is only on one side.

'Any initiative like this would have to come from the Spanish FA and from Luis Aragones himself.

'I would imagine that, until he receives a fulsome apology, the last thing that Thierry Henry would want to do is shake hands with him.'

Piara Powar, director of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign, added: 'Luis Aragones has so far been anything but repentant and doesn't seem to have understood the impact of his comments.

'One would assume that, if he did turn up at such an event, it would only be in a flippant way.

'I'm not sure of the rationale behind this idea unless there is a genuine apology first.'

Aragones has, indeed, shown little remorse for his comments about Henry, which were picked up during a Spain training session by TV cameras, in which he described the striker as 'a black ****.'

Ironically, UEFA are now encouraging all coaches to play their part in their zero tolerance policy against racism, urging them to report any wrongdoing.

Olsson added: 'We have this season been haunted by bad behaviour both in domestic football and European competition.

'Because of this we are re-emphasising our directive against racism and discrimination, with our renewed declaration putting pressure on referees and coaches.

'They have to take responsibility and monitor the behaviour of players and fans closely and to fulfil their obligation to punish and report any form of racism on and around the field of play.'