Word play. Cavani’s on-pitch brilliance blighted by social media blunder

January 4 – Manchester United’s Uruguayan international striker Edinson Cavani has completed the first of a three-match ban for a social media post containing a Spanish phrase that is offensive in some contexts but which has an acceptable interpretation in others.

Cavani pleaded guilty to an English Football Association charge of using insulting and/or improper words after scoring United’s winning goal at Southampton on November 29.

He missed the New Year’s Day fixture against Aston Villa and sits out two more games amid criticism in some quarters of the harshness of the FA’s action.

Cavani’s ‘Gracias negrito’ post was subsequently deleted and he apologised when the meaning that could be attached was pointed out. Along with the ban he was handed a £100,000 fine and must also complete a “face-to-face” education programme.

But he insists no offense was intended and United said he chose not to contest the charge out of respect for the FA and the “fight against racism in football.”

“My heart is at peace because I know that I always expressed myself with affection according to my culture and way of life,” Cavani wrote on Instagram.

“It was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game,” said the former Napoli and Paris St-Germain striker. “The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently.”

The FA said the comment was “improper and brought the game into disrepute” but sympathy for Cavani came from the  Uruguayan Academy of Letters – an association of academics and experts on the use of the Spanish language – which described the sanction as an example of English football’s lack of “cultural and linguistic knowledge.”

“In the context that it was written, the only value that can be given to negrito – and particularly because of the diminutive use – is affectionately,” the organisation said.

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