Charlton manager Lee Bowyer says striker Jonathan Leko “wasn’t himself” after being racially abused by Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
Casilla was given an eight-match ban on Friday after being found to have used racist language towards West Brom forward Leko, then on loan at Charlton, during a Sky Bet Championship match on September 28.
Following the ruling, Leko revealed his frustration at how long it had taken for a hearing to take place, and also his disappointment at a lack of support from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and anti-racism bodies, including ‘Kick It Out’.
“You can see he wasn’t himself, because he’s a bubbly lad, he’s a young lad, very confident, and he was a bit quiet for a while after,” Bowyer said. “But then us as a group, we got him through that, and then he started to become himself again.
“But the most important thing now is that it’s been dealt with and we can all move on. In an ideal world, for us – and I guess Leeds would say the same – it should have been dealt with quicker. I don’t think it’s been fair on both clubs and all players involved for it go on as long as it did.
“It’s too long. To have something like that holding over you is difficult, and for a young player as well. It’s not a nice thing to have to carry.”
Along with urging the game’s governing bodies to “look into their own processes”, Leko admitted that he would “think twice” in future about reporting such an incident, due to the level of stress the process has caused him.
The PFA issued a public apology to Leko on Wednesday, explaining that they had contacted Charlton and having not heard back “wrongly assumed” that the player didn’t require their support.
Leko returned to West Brom from Charlton after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament at the end of December, but Bowyer has remained in contact with the 20-year-old.
“Us as a football club have been there supporting him from day one,” Bowyer said.
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