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Watford 17:30 Arsenal


By Jamie Dixon.   Last Updated: 30/11/00 8:12am

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LAZIO defender Sinisa Mihajlovic has accused Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira of using him to clear his name and win public support, after the Serbian international was forced to make a public apology to the Frenchman last month.

Vieira, currently embroiled in another disciplinary dispute, after his clash with Olivier Dacourt at the weekend, has been branded a coward by Mihajlovic, who claims that he made his apology at the Stadio Olimpico for his own sake.

"Vieira used me. He needed to wipe the slate clean and it was too good an opportunity to pass up," claimed Mihajlovic in Guerin Sportivo.

"If all this had happened in England and the things I said to him had been said by an Englishman, he would have kept his mouth shut. I am sure of it. It's just that I am Mihajlovic, I am a Serb and a gypsy."

The defender received a two-match ban for the comments he made to Vieira during the Champions League match, but he has insisted that his apology was a mere formality and not heart-felt.

"I told the club to give me the chance to explain my side of the story or I would do it anyway," he added.

"Things had become very difficult. As for the explanation, the club wrote it for me. I changed a few things and I addressed the fans.

"I did what I had to do for myself. Vieira didn't. He had already reached his objectives. I showed that I had balls."

Mihajlovic's comments are sure to annoy both Vieira and Uefa, who handled the initial disciplinary action, and who are eager to show that they are stamping racism out of football.

The claims will also heighten the tension ahead of Leeds United's Champions League match against Lazio next Tuesday, when Uefa are sure to be watching Mihajlovic closely.


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