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West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek has insisted he ‘stands against all forms of racism’ after coming under fire for labelling Ondrej Kudela’s racism ban ‘absurd’.
Kudela was hoping to represent the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 this summer, but has missed out after being found guilty of racially abusing Rangers’ Glen Kamara during a Europa League clash in March.
UEFA’s Controls, Ethics and Disciplinary Body threw out his appeal and upheld their original ten-match ban.
On Friday, Soucek defended the Slavia Prague player by labelling the ban ‘absurd’ and insisting he knows ‘him so well that I can’t imagine him saying anything racist.”
The Hammers midfielder told iDNES: “At West Ham, everyone asked me about it and why he said it [to Kamara].
“And I fought for Ondrej all the time. I believe that he did not tell him anything racist, no-one proved anything about him.
“Yet a lot of people in the UK condemned him and he received a heavy sentence of 10 matches from UEFA. I found it absurd. I know him so well that I can’t imagine him saying anything racist….”
However, Soucek moved to explain his comments later on Friday and insisted his words have been ‘taken out of context’.
In a statement on Twitter, Soucek wrote: “My comments in a recent interview I did in the Czech Republic didn’t come across how I meant them, they were out of context and have been misunderstood.
“I am against racism in any form and am proud to play in a sport that is so diverse and inclusive.”
Earlier on Friday, Scotland players revealed they will ‘stand up to racism’ at Euro 2020 rather than take the knee before matches.
The squad switched to standing for the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign in March after head coach Steve Clarke claimed the knee gesture had become ‘maybe a little bit diluted’.
The move followed several Scottish Premiership clubs switching gestures in a bid to reinforce the anti-racism message.
A statement from the Scottish Football Association read: “The squad, coaching staff and backroom members will stand up to racism ahead of the Group D matches against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.”
Captain Andy Robertson added: “It is important we continue to tackle the issue of racism and raise awareness of the need to change people’s mindsets but also their behaviours.
“Prior to our World Cup qualifiers in March we spoke as a group and felt that taking a stand was the best way for us to show solidarity and also to reinforce the need for meaningful change in society.”