Hearts: Craig Levein 'embarrassed' by Goncalves racist abuse claims

Hearts manager Craig Levein and former Hearts striker Isma Goncalves
Craig Levein says he will contact Isma Goncalves to apologise on behalf of the club

Craig Levein feels "embarrassed" that Isma Goncalves did not speak to him about the alleged racist abuse he says played a role in his Hearts departure.

The 26-year-old, who moved to Pakhtakor Tashkent in January, claimed racially motivated taunts "from a minority" of Hearts fans proved a factor.

Levein said he would contact Goncalves to apologise on behalf of the club.

The Hearts manager also hinted that it may not be an isolated incident following discussions with his squad.

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.

"I was obviously sad and slightly embarrassed that Isma didn't feel he could come to me and talk about it," he said. "That's on me and it's something I need to look at.

"If we have a player who has been struggling and has suffered racial abuse, then I need to make it easier for him to come and speak to me and talk about it.

Zero tolerance on racist abuse

"If you read the statement [from Hearts on Wednesday] you can see how clear [chairwoman] Anne [Budge] has been about this and how everybody is disgusted by what has happened.

"I have been trying to get hold of Isma and we're going to speak this afternoon and I will apologise to him about what has happened."

Levein also admitted it may not be an isolated incident following talks with the rest of his players.

"Not to this extent, but there have been issues," the Hearts manager added. "I don't want to go into other details, but I have spoken to other players regarding what had happened.

"I will never experience this so it's difficult to talk about it, all I can do is provide support and try to help if a situation arises," he said.

"The club will be really strong on anyone who gets reported for this type of behaviour, I don't care how long they have been Hearts supporters, if they are found to be dishing out racial abuse to anybody in the stadium, they are gone."

He added: "As a club we have been very supportive of players with other problems, and I assure you that if Isma had made it known, we would have dealt with this as soon as possible."

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