THE Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) has pledged full support to Celtic winger Aleksandar Tonev, who was banned for seven matches by the Scottish FA for racially abusing Aberdeen player Shay Logan in a Premiership match in September.
Celtic have signalled their intention to appeal against the ban and have until tomorrow to formally challenge the verdict. If Celtic, as expected, do lodge an appeal it would free Tonev to be available for selection when the Scottish champions travel to Pittodrie on Sunday to face Aberdeen.
“In connection with the punishment for racism, which Bulgarian international Aleksandar Tonev received by the SFA, the BFU would like to express its full support for the player,” the Bulgarian FA said in a statement yesterday.
“We join the position of his club Celtic and we express our readiness to assist in every possible ways…for the truth to be revealed.”
The Scottish FA imposed the ban last Thursday after Dons defender Logan accused Tonev, capped 16 times by Bulgaria, of racially abusing him when the teams met in a game Celtic won 2-1 at Celtic Park.
“This was a very unfortunate case, but the club has accepted Aleksandar’s explanation that he did not say the words that were alleged to have been said and that he is not a racist,” Celtic said.
“We are, therefore, very disappointed by the outcome, and can confirm that Aleksandar will be appealing this decision.”
Tonev, 24, moved to Celtic on loan from Aston Villa in August and has played eight times in all competitions for the Scottish champions.
“Tonev has always been a role model at the Bulgarian national team and he never violated the principles of fair play in the football game,” the BFU said. “He’ll continue to be part of the national team.
“The BFU strongly condemns all forms of racism and xenophobia at football stadiums and will continue its policy of zero tolerance for such events.
“In the case of Aleksandar Tonev, however, we demand to see evidence that he has committed what he’s been accused of. Otherwise, we’ll consider that the punishment is biased and exaggerated.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila has included Tonev in the Celtic squad for the visit to Romania’s FC Astra in the Europa League on tomorrow night.
“Aleksandar is going with us as part of our squad for the Astra match,” Deila said. “He is very, very depressed. He believes in his innocence, and it’s very hard on him.
“We are supporting him because this is not right. It’s word against word and I believe him.”