Michel Morganella expelled for tweet
LONDON -- A Swiss soccer player was expelled from the Olympics on Monday for his threatening and racist message on Twitter about South Koreans. The comments by Michel Morganella came hours after Switzerland lost to South Korea.
Morganella "discriminated against, insulted and violated the dignity of the South Korea football team as well as the South Korean people," Swiss Olympic team chief Gian Gilli said through a translator at a news conference. He said the player was stripped of his Olympic accreditation.
Morganella is the second athlete kicked off a London Olympics team for offensive Twitter comments, following Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou.
He posted the message after playing in the 2-1 loss against South Korea on Sunday. He said in the tweet that South Koreans "can go burn" and referred to them as a "bunch of mongoloids."
The 23-year-old player later released a contrite statement through Swiss Olympic.
"I am sincerely sorry for the people of South Korea, for the players, but equally for the Swiss delegation and Swiss football in general. It's clear that I'm accepting the consequences."
"After the disappointing result and the reaction from Korea that followed, I made a huge error," Morganella added.
Officials from the South Korea team declined to comment when asked about Morganella during a news conference Monday at Wembley Stadium that had been scheduled before the uproar.
Gilli said the player had been "provoked" by comments sent to his Twitter account after the match.
Still, the Swiss team leader acknowledged that Morganella had to be sent home under the terms of the International Olympic Committee's code of conduct, which requires athletes to show mutual respect.
"In this case, we felt we have no alternative," Gilli said.
Swiss media published images of a tweet from Morganella's account (at)morgastoss. The account has since been deleted. The tweet was written in a garbled form of French, appearing to combine a kind of French slang called verlan and text-messaging style.
Swiss officials with the team in Cardiff, Wales, said players were told Morganella was already on his way home.
Gilli said he had tried to contact the head of the South Korean team in London to offer a personal explanation.
"We would like to apologize, especially to the South Korea National Olympic Committee and the South Korea Football Association for the behavior of the player," he said.
The IOC has encouraged the 10,800 athletes at the London Games to communicate with fans through social media, but it issued guidelines on the standards of behavior it expected.
South Korean fans were angered.
"I feel like our entire country was looked down upon by the Swiss player," Park Jeong-hwan, a football fan, said.
Morganella played the entire game in both of Switzerland's matches. He received a yellow card against South Korea in Coventry. The Swiss drew 1-1 with Gabon in Newcastle on Thursday. Switzerland plays its final group match against Mexico on Wednesday, needing to win by two goals to have a chance of advancing.
"We have to focus on the game," coach Pierluigi Tami said. "The other stuff we don't want to think about. Maybe we shouldn't read any newspapers for the next two days."
Morganella debuted with the senior national team in May and currently plays for the Italian club Palermo.
"We hope that he will draw the necessary lessons for his still young football career," Gilli said.
Last week, Greece Olympic officials tossed Papachristou off the team after she posted a comment mocking African immigrants and supporting a far-right political party.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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