EURO 2020: Austria's Marko Arnautovic banned for one game for insulting North Macedonian opponent

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Marko Arnautovic (right) celebrates with his Austrian teammates after scoring during Sunday's UEFA Euro 2020 group match against North Macedonia.
Marko Arnautovic (right) celebrates with his Austrian teammates after scoring during Sunday's UEFA Euro 2020 group match against North Macedonia.   -  Copyright  Robert Ghement/Pool via AP

Austrian footballer Marko Arnautovic has been banned for one game by UEFA for insulting an opponent.

UEFA confirmed on Wednesday that the striker had been charged with "insulting another player" during his nation's match with North Macedonia on Sunday.

He will now miss Austria's second Group C game against the Netherlands on Thursday.

North Macedonia's football federation (FFM) had asked UEFA to punish Arnautovic for a "nationalist" outburst after his goal at the European Championships.

After scoring, Arnautovic immediately turned to several opposing players and shouted, before teammate David Alaba ran up to him and grabbed his face with his hand to silence him.

The federation said the comments were directed at North Macedonia's Ezgjan Alioski, who is of Albanian origin. Arnautovic has denied the accusations of racism.

Under UEFA’s disciplinary rules, the player could have been banned for 10 games if his comments were found to be racist or insulting based on ethnic origin.

The FFM confirmed it had sent a letter to UEFA asking for a "very severe fine" against Arnautovic, who scored the final goal in Austria's 3-1 victory over North Macedonia in Bucharest.

"We are always against nationalism, discrimination, and all other forms of insults and outbursts that are not in the spirit of football and the values that we all stand for together," the federation said in a statement.

"We will always stand up and defend the interests and dignity of the Macedonian national team wherever they play."

Arnautovic, whose father is Serbian, has acknowledged his actions in an Instagram story but denied being racist.

"There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise - especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania," he wrote on Monday.

"I would like to say one thing very clearly: I AM NOT A RACIST!'' Arnautovic added.

"I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that."

Instagram - @m.arnautovic7
The player acknowledged there were "heated words" during Sunday's match.Instagram - @m.arnautovic7

The Albanian minority forms about a quarter of North Macedonia's population, and tensions erupted in 2001 during clashes with government forces. The conflict ended after seven months with a deal that granted more rights to Albanians.

Serbia and ethnic Albanians have also been in conflict in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.