The Uruguayan Football Players' Association has accused the Football Association of being discriminatory towards Uruguay's culture after banning Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani for three matches because of a social media post.
The 33-year-old shared an Instagram story from a fan which featured a racially offensive term after United's 3-2 win at Southampton on November 29, in which Cavani scored twice, including a stoppage-time winner. The post was later deleted and Cavani apologised.
Cavani, who was also fined £100,000, will have to complete face-to-face education after pleading guilty to the charge. He was absent from United's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on New Year's Day and will sit out of their upcoming clashes against Manchester City and Watford.
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The striker's international team-mates including Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid from Arsenal, and Cagliari defender Diego Godin, shared the statement on their social media accounts.
The statement from the Uruguayan Football Players' Association read: "Firstly, we must condemn the arbitrary conduct of the English Football Association. Far from condemning racism, the English FA has itself committed a discriminatory act against the culture and way of life of the Uruguayan people.
"The sanction shows the English FA's biased, dogmatic and ethnocentric vision that only allows a subjective interpretation to be made from its particular and excluding conclusion, however flawed it may be.
"Edinson Cavani has never committed any conduct that could be interpreted as racist. He merely used a common expression in Latin America to affectionately address a loved one or close friend.
"To sustain that the only way to obtain a valid interpretation in life is that which lies in the minds of the managers of the English FA is actually a true discriminatory act, which is completely reprehensible and against Uruguayan culture.
"We would therefore like to publicly defend Edinson Cavani's impeccable character and of course our country's culture.
"We are all against any kind of discrimination; however, unfortunately, through its sanction, the English FA expresses absolute ignorance and disdain for a multicultural vision of the world, respectful of its plurality, by erroneously, unilaterally and rigidly imposing its anti-racist rules, the basis of which we support but are obviously not realistically applicable to the case in question here.
"It has not just punished one person, but also our whole culture, our way of life, which is truly a discriminatory and racist act.
"Lastly, we urge the English FA to review its decision-making processes related to these issues immediately so that it does not commit any similar injustice ever again. Its regulations should take into account the plurality of people's ways of life and cultures. The first rule to fight any racism is to respect such different ways of life and cultures.
"By virtue of the foregoing, we request the FA to immediately overturn the sanction imposed on Edinson Cavani and reinstate his good name and honour in the world that has been so unfairly tarnished by this reprehensible action."
The FA maintains that Cavani was found guilty following a full and thorough investigation which involved a language expert witness.
At the time that the punishment was issued, the FA stated that Cavani was in breach of Rule E3, alleging that his post was "insulting and/or abusive and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute."
The Association added: "It is further alleged that the comment constitutes an Aggravated Breach, which is defined in FA Rule E3.2, as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin."
Cavani admitted the charge in full and the governing body says that the written reasons for the independent Regulatory Commission's verdict will be published in due course.
CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, have expressed "solidarity" with Cavani, adding in a statement: "The disciplinary measure for the outstanding player of the Uruguayan team clearly does not consider the cultural characteristics and the use of certain terms in Uruguay's everyday speech.
"The judgment of these types of statements, within the framework of a process that can lead to penalties for the athlete and that affect his reputation and good name, must always be carried out taking into account the context in which they were made and, above all, cultural peculiarities of each player and each country.
"CONMEBOL condemns and will always condemn with the greatest energy any racist or discriminatory manifestation, but the specific case for which Cavani was sanctioned does not constitute one of them."
Manchester United have maintained that the term used on Cavani's account carries a different meaning in Uruguay than it does in the UK and the club has stated that "no malicious intent" was contained in the message.
Shortly after removing the post, Cavani issued an apology which read: "The message I posted after the game on Sunday was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game.
"The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently. I would like to sincerely apologise for this."
Kick It Out: There is a responsibility to protect players over cultural differences
Kick It Out's chair Sanjay Bhandari believes Cavani's actions carried no ulterior motives, but stressed that further education is needed concerning cultural differences, for players coming from overseas to play in English football.
"I think the challenge is that this is all about context isn't it, words can have different meanings in different contexts and in different countries," Bhandari told Sky Sports News.
"Clearly, there is a feeling, and I have heard this quite commonly, that in South America the particular word that was used is a term of endearment and is not offensive.
"But of course, the word wasn't used in Uruguay, it was used here, and the question is: Is that word offensive here?
"My understanding is there are reports that may be prompted by the Suarez-Evra incident in 2011 that that word has crept into the English language and is starting to be used in an offensive context. It's clear that Cavani used it when he was talking to a friend, he meant it as a friendly gesture.
"But the FA will not just be looking at his intent, but what was the effect, and if someone seeing that would be offended by the use of that word, and that's why it's a little more complex.
"There is probably a bigger issue here in that anyone going to live in a different country sometimes can fall foul of local culture, different meanings, different words.
"There is a responsibility to protect our players coming from overseas that we make sure they have the education to understand that there are things that are done in their own culture that are offensive in this culture, and that would work the other way around too."
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