England coach Roy Hodgson apologised after making a joke about a monkey in space during a halftime talk during a World Cup qualifier.
Hodgson recounted the joke in the England dressing room during Tuesday’s match against Poland as he attempted to explain how he wanted his players to pass the ball more to winger Andros Townsend. Townsend is black and the word “monkey” can have racist connotations.
“I would like to apologise if any offense has been caused by what I said at halftime,” Hodgson said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
“There was absolutely no intention on my part to say anything inappropriate. I made this clear straightaway to Andros in the dressing room.
“I also spoke to Andros again on Wednesday. He has assured me and the FA he did not take any offense, and understood the point I was making in the manner I intended.”
Townsend tweeted Thursday: “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken! It’s not even news worthy!”
England striker Wayne Rooney also took to Twitter, saying that the story, which made the front page of The Sun newspaper, was “ridiculous” and that Hodgson has “done nothing wrong.”
Anti-racism group Kick It Out has demanded an investigation “to ascertain the full facts and ensure a similar situation does not arise again.”
“Kick It Out ... recognizes and shares the concerns of the parties who felt mindful to bring the comments into the public domain,” the group said in a statement. England won the match 2-0, sealing qualification to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Football Association backs Hodgson
FA chairman Greg Dyke said that Hodgson was “a man of the highest integrity” and that he had “the full support of The Football Association”.
Dyke added: “He has fully explained to us what he said and the point he was making to the players in the dressing room at half-time on Tuesday night. He has also explained the context in which he made his remarks.
“He has made clear there was no intent to say anything inappropriate, and he was certainly not making any comments with any racist connotation. Importantly, he has apologised for any unintended offence that may have been taken.”
Dyke also said that the FA “has not had a complaint from any squad member or player representative, and we have today (Thursday) talked extensively to the squad”.