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U.S. soccer player sues over alleged racist slur

BRUSSELS - U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu is suing anAnderlecht player over an alleged racial insult, hoping the casewill help eradicate on-field racist abuse in European soccer.

Onyewu, who plays for Standard Liege, says Anderlecht's JelleVan Damme called him a "dirty monkey" during the Belgian leagueplayoffs. Van Damme has denied the allegations and said he is not aracist.

Onyewu's lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, lodged a complaint with aBrussels court Tuesday.

"He was convinced it was his duty to lodge the complaint,"Dupont said. "It is not a question whether Van Damme is racist.The issue is that these slurs are still used on the pitch, and arebeing used because they know it hurts."

Onyewu completed five days of training in Miami on Sunday withthe U.S. soccer team. He is preparing for the June 14-28Confederations Cup in South Africa and two World Cup qualifiers.

Onyewu is one of the top defenders in the Belgian league and hasmade 40 international appearances for the U.S., starting in allthree games of the 2006 World Cup.

The incidents occurred during the opener of a two-game playoffseries between Standard Liege and Anderlecht to decide the Belgianleague on May 21.

In three separate incidents during the tense 1-1 draw, Onyewuclaims Van Damme called him a "monkey." Onyewu alerted thereferee but the match was not interrupted. At one point, Onyewuthreatened to leave the field but "the teammates convinced him tostay," his court complaint said.

Standard Liege beat Anderlecht 1-0 in the return leg, giving the27-year-old Onyewu his second league title in as many years.

Beyond seeking personal reparation, Onyewu "wants to contributeto eradicate such behavior in football," his court papers said.

"A great many lesser-known African players don't have thestature to publicly denounce the insult they suffer on the pitch,"Dupont said. "With Oguchi, it is different."

Anderlecht said it had yet to be informed of the court case. Theteam said Van Damme had told the referee at the playoff game hemade no such comments.

Unlike the racist chants that cascade from the stands in someEuropean nations, the racist taunts on the field are oftenwhispered in a player's ear when referees are out of earshot.

Racism from the stands has been going for years, with fansmaking money chants and throwing bananas at black players. Soccerofficials have long condemned it and fined clubs.

Although not racist, the most famous case of onfield tauntingcame at the 2006 World Cup final. Italian defender Marco Materazzigot under Zinedine Zidane's skin and the Frenchman headbutted him.Zidane was sent off and Italy went on to win the cup.


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