European football's governing body, Uefa, has suspended Switzerland's Alex Frei for the rest of Euro 2004 for spitting at England midfielder Steven Gerrard.This content was published on June 21, 2004 - 16:47
The Swiss Football Association (SFA) had earlier said it would not play the striker against France on Monday, after television footage showed him spitting at the player.
In a statement, Uefa said its appeals body had provisionally suspended Frei for all competitive matches in national team competitions for a period of 15 days.
Earlier on Monday, the SFA decided that on the basis of new TV pictures it would not be possible to oppose a suspension.
Television footage surfaced on Sunday showing Frei spitting at midfielder Steven Gerrard during Thursday's match, which the Swiss lost 3-0.
A Uefa disciplinary commission originally dismissed the case against Frei for lack of evidence. Frei also denied any wrongdoing.
The Swiss striker said he had only sworn at Gerrard after the England player pushed him from behind.
Uefa said that the new evidence left little doubt.
"Have you seen the images? They were about as strong as they were in the case of (Francesco) Totti," said Uefa spokesman William Gaillard, referring to the Italian star who received a three-match suspension for spitting at a Danish player.
Uefa decided to appeal against its own disciplinary committee's ruling on Frei and called for an interim suspension because of new evidence it received from Swiss television.
"If we feel there is a strong presumption of guilt, we cannot let him benefit from the fact he didn't tell the truth in the first place," Gaillard said.
A Uefa official later told Swiss television that Uefa wanted Frei to be banned for five games.
The affair has overshadowed Switzerland’s final Group B match against France, which they must win if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The Swiss have yet to score a goal at the European football championships and Frei's absence is a big blow.
The tabloid “Blick” said Euro 2004 in Portugal “will go down as a dark chapter in Swiss football history unless Switzerland can pull off a miracle against France”.
Many newspapers demanded to know if Frei was acting alone or if he was told to lie by the SFA.
The Zurich-based “Tages-Anzeiger” said Frei’s real crime was his failure to come clean.
The newspaper questioned whether Frei had been told to lie by the SFA, saying this would be more serious than the original offence.
“Der Bund” said the incident amounted to a loss of face for both the striker and the SFA.
“Alex Frei lied” was the headline in “24 Heures”, which carried a large picture of Frei defending himself at a press conference.
If Switzerland are to advance, they must beat France and hope there is a winner in the other Group B match between England and Croatia.
“It’s our last chance and every player must go into this match believing that the only attitude is to take our chance against France,” said midfielder Hakan Yakin.
The Swiss had a man sent off in both the 0-0 draw with Croatia and during their defeat against England.
“Just once, I would like our team to take the lead in a match and finally play all 90 minutes with 11 players on the pitch,” said Swiss coach, Köbi Kuhn.
swissinfo with agencies
The spitting incident took place in the 77th minute of Switzerland's defeat by England in Coimbra on Thursday.
The referee did not spot it and Frei played the entire game.
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