Remorseful Melbourne City goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis has been told he should count himself fortunate he’ll only miss five A-League games for repeatedly calling Melbourne Victory’s Albanian striker Besart Berisha a “f***ing gypsy”.
Bouzanis was unable to persuade Football Federation Australia’s disciplinary and ethics committee to downgrade his charge of discriminatory language on the grounds he did not understand the racial undertones of his slur in Saturday night’s Melbourne derby.
But at a hearing on Wednesday night in Sydney, the committee accepted the 26-year-old’s deep remorse over his words, caught on camera following Manny Muscat’s controversial 86th-minute own goal that gave Victory a 2-1 win.
It also took into account the fact he had met with Berisha personally on Tuesday to apologise, and praised City for making a public apology on the player’s behalf and taking immediate proactive steps to address the situation with Victory.
But committee chair, John Marshall SC, warned Bouzanis that while his unblemished record and pledge to undergo an awareness course had helped his case this time, he could not expect such leniency in the future.
“You should think yourself fortunate to have got the minimum in the circumstances, and you can never count on that happening ever again,” Marshall said.
Bouzanis will be sidelined until City’s round 24 away clash with Western Sydney and likely replaced by Thomas Sorensen in the interim.
“I’m grateful to have been able to present my case and I’d like to apologise to Berisha and the football community,” Bouzanis said afterwards.
“You’ll see from my actions that this will never happen again.”
During the 40-minute hearing, City chief executive Scott Munn recounted the moment he found Bouzanis in the changing rooms after Saturday’s fiery match and explained the severity of what he’d said.
Munn said Bouzanis had been under the impression the word “gypsy” was nothing more than a swear word or something akin to “bogan”.
But he became extremely anxious and regretful after learning its true meaning and sought to apologise to Berisha immediately, which Victory deemed inappropriate on the night.
“There was an absolute shock of ‘oh, s***, I’ve overstepped the line’,” Munn said.
Bouzanis’ absence further ravages City’s already massively depleted squad for Saturday’s crunch clash with Brisbane at AAMI Park.
Tim Cahill has a one-game ban for swearing, while defender Michael Jakobsen is injured and captain Bruno Fornaroli, Muscat, Osama Malik, Luke Brattan and Fernando Brandan will all serve one-week suspensions due to an accumulation of yellow cards.