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Tottenham fan banned for throwing banana at Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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A Tottenham Hotspur fan has been handed a four-year football ban after he threw a banana skin at Gabonese Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the north London derby.

Averof Panteli, 57, admitted hurling the item on to the pitch at the Emirates Stadium as the striker celebrated his opening goal in the heated Premier League fixture on 2 December, which the Gunners won 4-2.

The van driver told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday that he picked up and threw the discarded peel in a “spur of the moment action” and denied there was any racist intent, claiming that “it just happened”.

But magistrate Mervyn Mandell said: “We find it was a targeted gesture to throw a banana skin after a goal was scored by a black player. We have in the circumstances found the racial element was there.”

Tottenham fan Averof Paneteli has been banned from attending football matches for four years
Image:
Tottenham fan Averof Paneteli has been banned from attending football matches for four years

Panteli, of Borrowdale Drive, Norwich, was one of four men arrested by police in connection with the incident after being identified by CCTV images and detained by a steward.

The court fined the father-of-three, who is of Greek Cypriot heritage, £500 and ordered him to pay £135 in costs.

He was also handed a four-year football banning order, having already been banned for life by Spurs – the club he has been following home and away for 50 years.

Panteli, who appeared in court wearing a black tie and jacket with a white shirt, was accompanied at the match by family members, including a son-in-law who is mixed race.

Gabon striker Aubameyang scored two goals for the Gunners
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Gabon striker Aubameyang scored twice for the Gunners in a 4-2 victory

Leila Rasool, mitigating, said Panteli was of “exemplary character” and knew he had made a “grave error”.

She told the court: “It was a spur of the moment thing. He picked up the closest article to him and that happened to be a banana skin. He realised the grave error he had made.

“He has not been charged for any racially aggravated public order offence. Police directly told Mr Panteli they accepted his account and didn’t think there was a racial element.”

The offence of throwing a missile on to a football playing area is contrary to the Football (Offences) Act 1991.

After the game, which temporarily saw Arsenal leapfrog their rivals into the top four, top scorer Aubameyang posted a picture of the incident on Instagram with the caption “#whysmandoingthis?” and a banana emoji.

One of his Arsenal predecessors, forward-turned-pundit Ian Wright, was one of many notable football figures to criticise the scenes, which he said had “embarrassed” the Premier League.

Just a week later, Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling was targeted by racist abuse at Stamford Bridge, further igniting the debate over the prevalence of racism within English football.

Chelsea has banned four people from attending games while an investigation is carried out.

:: Arsenal host Spurs in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, live from 7pm on Sky Sports

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