Austrian footballer Marko Arnautovic has denied accusations of racism from North Macedonia”s football federation (FFM).
The authority has asked UEFA to punish the striker for an outburst after he scored a goal at the European Championships on Sunday.
The federation said it was directed at North Macedonia’s Ezgjan Alioski, who is of Albanian origin.
The FFM confirmed it had sent a letter to UEFA asking for a “very severe fine” against Arnautovic, who scored the final goal in Austria’s 3-1 victory over North Macedonia in Bucharest.
After scoring, Arnautovic immediately turned to several opposing players and shouted, before teammate David Alaba ran up to him and grabbed his face with his hand to silence him.
“We are always against nationalism, discrimination, and all other forms of insults and outbursts that are not in the spirit of football and the values that we all stand for together,” the federation said in a statement.
“We will always stand up and defend the interests and dignity of the Macedonian national team wherever they play.”
Arnautovic, whose father is Serbian, has acknowledged his actions in an Instagram story but denied being racist.
“There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise – especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania,” he wrote on Monday.
“I would like to say one thing very clearly: I AM NOT A RACIST!” Arnautovic added.
“I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that.”
The Albanian minority forms about a quarter of North Macedonia’s population, and tensions erupted in 2001 during clashes with government forces. The conflict ended after seven months with a deal that granted more rights to Albanians.
Serbia and ethnic Albanians have also been in conflict in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.