On Wednesday night Newcastle United’s Papiss Cisse and Manchester United’s Jonny Evans took themselves down to the lowest level by spitting at each other. Only one of the two, however, has made steps to rectify their standing in the public eye since.
Step forward Cisse, and credit is also due to his club, who released a statement the very next day owning up to what had been caught on camera and broadcast all over the world.
“I have apologies to make to a lot of people today,” he wrote, according to the club’s official website. “Firstly to my teammates and to our supporters, secondly to Jonny Evans, and thirdly to every football fan who saw the incident between myself and Jonny.”
“I reacted to something I found very unpleasant. Sometimes it is hard not to react, particularly in the heat of the moment. I have always tried hard to be a positive role model, especially for our young fans, and yesterday I let you down. I hope children out there playing football for their clubs and schools this weekend will know better than to retaliate when they are angry. Perhaps when they see the problem it now causes me and my team they will be able to learn from my mistake, not copy it.”
Cisse’s public apology so soon after the incident was the very best thing to do in the circumstances. It’s difficult to hide from the allegations levelled at both players when the footage has been beamed to millions of people, as well as dissected by pundits and commented on across social media. Newcastle and Cisse deserve praise for being the first ones out to apologise and seek forgiveness for what happened on the pitch.
Jonny Evans and Manchester United’s approach, however, has been to issue a complete denial of the incident.
“Having woken up this morning I am shocked to have seen the media coverage from last night’s match. I would like to make it clear that I did not spit at Papiss Cisse.
“I was totally unaware of any spitting incident and had assumed that the issue at the time was with the challenge and his attempted retaliation to the tackle from the floor. During the game Papiss Cisse and I spoke about the incident and it is clear by my reaction in the television footage that I was totally surprised by any suggestion of spitting.
“It is not in my character or in my nature to spit at anybody nor is it something I have ever done or would ever do. It is certainly not something that I did last night.”
While the actions of both players deserve condemning, the way Newcastle have handled the incident is worthy of some applause. The statement acknowledges the player’s position as a role model and condemns what happened. They’ve since accepted the FA charge on the same day it was issued while, a day later at 7pm (Friday 6th March), news was only just emerging that Evans had denied the charge. Notably, this news isn’t on the club’s official website.
Immediately following the game managers of both clubs claimed to have not been aware of the incident between the two players, which came late on in the first half. John Carver, Newcastle’s head coach, said he’d been made aware of a “fracas” (becoming the only known person to have used the word outside of print) by the TV crew, while Louis Van Gall claimed the next day that Evans hadn’t meant to spit towards Cisse.
Their punishment will now be decided by the FA’s committee over the weekend, however regardless of what the outcome is Newcastle and Cisse deserve credit for acknowledging the incident and moving quickly to ensure that comment came direct from the club. It’s unlikely to sway the FA’s disciplinary panel, but it will go some way to addressing attitudes towards the club from neutral fans. Manchester United, on the other hand, face ridicule if the panel find Evans guilty of spitting at Cisse. If they don’t, then it’s the FA who will likely be on the receiving end – but a 50/50 chance is a dangerous game to play by one of the country’s most famous clubs.