Hearts apologise to Isma Goncalves after claim racism forced him out of club

Isma Goncalves celebrates scoring for Hearts
Isma Goncalves spent a year with Hearts, scoring 15 goals

Hearts are to apologise to Isma Goncalves after the striker claimed that racist abuse had played a big part in his January exit from the club.

The 26-year-old was transferred to Pakhtakor Tashkent in Uzbekistan for £350,000.

He has now told the Edinburgh Evening News that racially motivated taunts "from a minority" were a major factor.

"The club will be contacting Isma to apologise to him and his family," the Scottish Premiership club has stated.

Hearts said they would do so on behalf of "thousands of supporters who share our anger and disappointment that they were subjected to this behaviour".

"The club was unaware that these incidents had occurred, but we will immediately implement some additional proactive measures to ensure there is a simple and easy process for players and their families to report any such incident," they said.

"We pride ourselves in being a multi-race and multi-cultural club and will take all steps to ensure that players and their families who join us here in Edinburgh can do so, free from any concerns over prejudice."

Goncalves, who was born in Guinea-Bissau but played youth football for Portugal, was in his second stint in Scottish football having had a loan spell with St Mirren from Rio Ave in 2013.

He joined Hearts in January 2017 after leaving Anorthosis Famagusta in Cyprus and went on to score 15 times in 42 games for the Edinburgh club.

Isma Goncalves (right) in action for APOEL Nicosia
Isma Goncalves (right) had two spells in Cyprus, the first with APOEL Nicosia

"I didn't want to leave Hearts at first, but the problem was that my family were no longer coming to the games," Goncalves was quoted as saying.

"There were some people making racist comments to me in the stadium and my family did not feel OK about this.

"It was a minority, but bad things even from a minority can have a big impact.

"My family should be able to go to the stadium and feel comfortable."

Hearts responded by saying that the club "abhors racism and any type of prejudicial abuse and will not tolerate any incidence of such behaviour".

"The club is committed to providing support for its players and a safe working environment for all staff and if anyone is proven to have made racial remarks to individuals inside the stadium then they will be subject to an immediate football banning order and we will report every single such incident to Police Scotland for action," they added.

"We would urge supporters who witness any such behaviour to contact the club.

"We are aware that, as ever, it is only a very small number of individuals who have let the club and themselves down in this manner."

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