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Phoenix players remain shell-shocked by abuse

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012
Paul Ifill
Getty Images
TAUNTED: Paul Ifill has claimed he was the target of racial abuse from Adelaide fans.

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Paul Ifill and Benjamin Totori arrived back in Wellington early this morning still shocked by the racial epithets hurled by a lone spectator during Sunday's A-League clash between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United.

Ifill, a former Barbados international, was allegedly abused by a patron at Hindmarsh Stadium, both during the first half of the match and when he was substituted during the second spell.

Totori, one of the mainstays of the Solomon Islands national side, was one of the players on the Phoenix bench who heard every hateful word shouted by the fan. It's understood the Phoenix management and players were, first, disbelieving, and then appalled by the continued hateful comments launched by the spectator, who was stationed near the team's dug-out.

The abuse was directed solely at Ifill, but wounded Totori and the other players on the Phoenix's bench. Fellow substitutes Alex Smith and Griffin McMaster joined Ifill in registering their disgust on Twitter, soon after Adelaide's 3-1 win.

Ifill missed the "two or three" bursts of abuse during the first spell. But he was made aware of them at halftime, by a Phoenix representative, who also expressed his displeasure to Adelaide officials.

They immediately made sure the security presence near the Phoenix dug-out was increased and a security guard was dispatched into the stands, adjacent to where the alleged abuser was sitting. Adelaide also issued an unreserved apology to Ifill and the Phoenix, which was accepted.

Ifill is believed to be in reasonable spirits, but still struggling to comprehend a series of incidents that is now in the hands of authorities in Australia.

Football Federation Australia is co-ordinating an investigation, with the assistance of Adelaide United, Hindmarsh Stadium management, South Australian police and the A-League's security firm.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said in Sydney yesterday that the alleged perpetrator would be banned from attending matches, if found.

"That kind of taunt is not on," Gallop said.

A lawyer by trade, the former NRL chief executive doubted this would become a criminal case.

"The ban system that is in place for any kind of anti-social behaviour is one we need to continue to be vigilant about. At this stage, the ban system is the way to deal with these things," said Gallop.

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A spokesman for the FFA added that his body regarded racial vilification as having absolutely no place in A-League football and hopes were high that the instigator of this verbal attack would be found shortly.

It's unclear whether there was CCTV footage of the alleged incidents, but The Dominion Post understands that at least one security guard heard the fan in action and would be able to identify him.

Neither the Phoenix, nor Adelaide United, would comment on the matter yesterday.

In written statements, both mentioned their horror at the alleged racial abuse and confidence that the authorities would deal with it appropriately.

- The Dominion Post

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