Swiss player expelled from Olympics because of tweet

LONDON — Switzerland soccer player Michel Morganella has been expelled from the London Olympics for posting a racist message on Twitter about South Korea hours after losing against its national team.

Swiss Olympic team chief Gian Gilli said Morganella has been stripped of his Olympic accreditation ahead of Switzerland’s final group match against Mexico on Wednesday.

Morganella “discriminated against, insulted and violated the dignity of the South Korea football team as well as the South Korean people,” Gilli said through a translator at a news conference Monday.

Morganella is the second athlete kicked off a London Olympics team for offensive Twitter comments, following Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou.

He posted what the Swiss team described as an offensive and threatening message after playing in the Swiss team’s 2-1 loss against South Korea on Sunday.

“I am sincerely sorry for the people of South Korea, for the players, but equally for the Swiss delegation and Swiss football in general,” the 23-year-old player said in a statement released by Swiss Olympic. “It’s clear that I’m accepting the consequences.

“After the disappointing result and the reaction from Korea that followed, I made a huge error,” Morganella said.

Gilli said the player had been “provoked” by comments sent to his Twitter account after the match and had publicly apologized.

Still, the Swiss team leader acknowledged that Morganella had to be sent home under the terms of the International Olympic Committee’s code of conduct, which requires athletes to show mutual respect.

“This is an aggravating case, and in this case we felt we have no alternative,” Gilli said.

Swiss media published images of a tweet from Morganella’s account (at)morgastoss. The account has since been deleted.

The controversial tweet was written in a garbled form of French, appearing to combine a type of slang called verlan and text-messaging style.

Swiss officials with the football team in Cardiff said players were told Morganella was already on his way home from Britain.

Gilli said he had tried to contact the head of the South Korean team at London to offer a personal explanation.

“We would like to apologize especially to the South Korea National Olympic Committee and the South Korea Football Association for the behavior of the player,” he said.

The International Olympic Committee has encouraged the 10,800 athletes at the London Games to communicate with fans through social media, though issued guidelines on the standards of behavior it expected.

Last week, Greece Olympic officials kicked triple jumper Papachristou off the team for London after she posted a comment mocking African immigrants and supporting a far-right political party.

At the London Games, Morganella played the full 90 minutes in both Switzerland matches, and was shown a yellow card against South Korea in Coventry. The Swiss drew 1-1 with Gabon in Newcastle last Thursday.

Morganella made his debut for the senior national team in May, and currently plays for Italian Serie A club Palermo.

“We hope that he will draw the necessary lessons for his still young football career,” Gilli said.

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