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FA defends Hodgson's monkey joke

Updated: 2013-10-19 07:47
By Agence France-Presse in London ( China Daily)

The Football Association gave its backing to England manager Roy Hodgson on Thursday after he inadvertently created a media storm by telling his squad a joke about a monkey.

Hodgson apologized after several British newspapers reported he had told the joke at halftime of his side's 2-0 win over Poland on Tuesday, which saw it qualify for next year's World Cup.

But the manager later said he was furious about the row, and feared there was a smear campaign against him which could hamper his team's preparations for Brazil.

According to the reports, Hodgson encouraged his players to pass the ball to in-form Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend by telling a joke about a monkey being sent into space by US space agency NASA.

The word 'monkey' can have racist connotations, but although the joke concludes with the words "feed the monkey", it is not racist in nature. Townsend is of Cypriot and Jamaican descent.

Hodgson told the Daily Mail on Friday that "the players are as angry about this as I am".

"I think we have earned the right to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Instead we get this," he said.

The paper reported the coach felt he was "deliberately forced into a corner".

FA chairman Greg Dyke said Hodgson was "a man of the highest integrity" and that he had "the full support of The Football Association".

Dyke also said: "He has fully explained to us what he said and the point he was making to the players in the dressing room at halftime on Tuesday night.

"He has also explained the context in which he made his remarks.

"He has made clear there was no intent to say anything inappropriate, and he was certainly not making any comments with any racist connotation. Importantly, he has apologized for any unintended offense that may have been taken."

Townsend expressed surprise at the newspaper stories, writing on Twitter: "I don't know what all this fuss is about. No offense was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy!"

Hodgson also received support from England striker Wayne Rooney.

"To be honest, it's really annoying that something such as this should see the light of day," Rooney said on his personal website.

"All the lads know what type of guy Roy is, and to try and pin some form of label on him is absolutely ridiculous."

The joke, which reportedly emerged at NASA in the 1960s and 1970s, is about a man being sent into space for the first time alongside a monkey.

The astronaut becomes frustrated that the monkey is being asked to do all the work and radios mission control to ask what he should do.

NASA replies: "Don't touch anything - just feed the monkey."

(China Daily 10/19/2013 page15)