Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I Was Brought Up in a Mixed Community, My Friends and Schoolboy Pals Were Different Nationalities

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I Was Brought Up in a Mixed Community, My Friends and Schoolboy Pals Were Different Nationalities

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alan Oliver

Lee Bowyer today declared he is not a racist.

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, the 26-year-old England midfielder spoke for the first time about the issue since being cleared of attacking student Sarfraz Najeib outside a nightclub in January 2000.

As he prepared for his St James' Park debut in tomorrow's crucial clash with Manchester United, the London-born player said it was time to put the record straight.

He declared: "I'm no racist. I have never been and I never will be. I thought it was best for me to keep quiet about what happened in the past, and there were legal implications and there was no reason for me to come and say anything.

"If people were inferring that I was a racist, well, that's their opinion. But it was ludicrous, really.

"I was brought up in a mixed community in London and all my friends and schoolboy pals were of different nationalities.

"All this has been going on for a long time and I've not been in a position to back myself up, if you like, but now I want to put the record straight.

"I have always supported Keep Racism out of Football when I was at Charlton with my pal Carl Leaburn and at Leeds with Lucas Radebe.

"It's something I've always supported - but people seem to forget that these days."

Despite denying, and being exonerated of the attack on Mr Najeib outside a Leeds nightclub three years ago, Bowyer has continued to be dogged by the controversy.

Mr Najeib is also currently pursuing a civil claim against Bowyer, who was charged with assault causing grievous bodily harm and affray but later cleared at Hull Crown Court.

His transfer to West Ham last season was greeted by protests from some groups of fans.

However, his then manager, ex-Newcastle player Glenn Roeder, insisted Bowyer was not a problem.

Roeder said: "He used to come in, do his training in a professional manner and then head off home.

"When we decided to go for Bowyer I never suspected that he would cause any trouble and I was right.

"He's a keen fisherman and that's where he used to normally go after training - and I must say I found him to be a very mature player to deal with. …

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