BRUSSELS (AFP) — A black African player at FC Brussels has walked out after allegedly being racially abused by the Belgian club's president Johan Vermeersch.
According to Zola Matumona's lawyer, the Congolese secured a release from his contract following: "racist and xenophobic abuse dished out in front of players and coaching staff."
Vermeersch lambasted his players for their poor performances but during his rebuke he reportedly told Matumona to think about other things than "trees and bananas."
The incident has seen the club's kit sponsor, South Korean car manufacturer Kia tear up their contract with FC Brussels.
"This incident is such that we can no longer have our image associated with the Brussels club," said Kia's regional manager Benoit Morenne to the Belga news agency.
"We don't want to be associated in any way with racism."
Vermeersch, however, denied on the club's website having made racist comments, although he admitted to having lively exchanges with certain players, including Matumona.
"And if someone has felt hurt by my words then I am sorry because that was never my intention," said Vermeersch.
He did, however, tell Le Soir newspaper that he had spoken of trees and bananas but that it was nothing more than "a joke" to make the player react.
FC Brussels are 15th in the 18-team league after 11 matches having lost eight of those games.
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