Sheffield Wednesday striker Fernando Forestieri found not guilty of racial abuse
The Argentine striker had denied calling Mansfield defender Krystian Pearce a "n*****" during a pre-season friendly.
Last Updated: 29/03/19 10:30am
Sheffield Wednesday striker Fernando Forestieri has been found not guilty of racially abusing an opposition player.
The Argentine striker, 29, had denied calling Mansfield Town defender Krystian Pearce a "n*****" during a pre-season friendly on July 24, 2018.
There was a "40-man brawl" after Pearce said he heard the remarks during the match at Mansfield's One Call stadium.
Pearce confronted Forestieri about the alleged abuse after the match and he denied being racist. He also apologised if the defender had "misheard".
District Judge Jonathan Taffe ruled Pearce may have been mistaken in what he heard as "it was very loud" at the ground.
Forestieri was acquitted of racially aggravated harassment at Mansfield Magistrates' Court on Thursday.
In a statement released on Thursday night, Forestieri said: I am very pleased with the verdict. The last eight months have been a difficult time for me and my family.
"I now wish to put the matter behind me and focus on my football."
During his trial the striker, who has played for the Sky Bet Championship side since 2015, "swore on his son's life" he did not racially abuse the Barbados international.
Forestieri was accused of making the remark after he was booked for a tackle on Mansfield defender Hayden White just after the 80th minute.
Andrew Conboy, prosecuting, said while opening the case against the forward: "Krystian Pearce will give evidence describing the defendant's attitude as worsening throughout the game and about 80 minutes into the game an incident sparked a reaction from the defendant.
"There was a heated exchange of words - Forestieri was speaking mainly in Spanish but used the word 'n*****' and 's***'."
Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft told the court he felt he had to walk on the pitch to pull Pearce away from Forestieri after being informed of a "racist incident" by the fourth official.
Flitcroft said: "My gut instinct was to get on the pitch and clear him from the pitch.
"When I went on Krystian told me what had been said. That's when I knew I had to take him off the pitch."
Addressing what Forestieri said in a voluntary police interview, Mr Conboy said: "He provided a prepared statement and gave an explanation for what he had said in Spanish.
"He initially accepted he was abusive in Spanish but none of it would have represented any racial hostility."
Pearce insisted he was not mistaken in the witness box on Thursday.
He said: "I heard him say something. The sentence was in Spanish and in the middle of the sentence he used the word 'n*****' and at the end of the sentence he used the word 's***'.
"I then reacted to what he had said and told him to repeat it, which he didn't.
"I tried to notify the referee as soon as I could, I think it must have been around a minute or two later."
In the witness box, Forestieri was asked by his defence solicitor: "Did you at any stage call him a n*****?"
The striker replied: "No, I never said that, I'm not like that. I was very sad because I'm not a racist. The first rule in football is to respect your colleagues."