Tiemoue Bakayoko is surprised the Twitter controversy involving his former Monaco team-mates Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy has resulted in a Football Association charge for the Portugal international.
Manchester City playmaker Silva last month tweeted – and subsequently deleted – a photo of a young Mendy and a dated image from Conguitos, a Spanish confectionary brand that has been criticised for having racist connotation. The post was captioned “Guess who?”
On Wednesday, Silva was charged with an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 on account of the post being “insulting and/or improper and/or [bringing] the game into disrepute”. It is further alleged the offence amounts to an “aggravated breach” because it included “reference, whether expressed or implied, to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin”.
City manager Pep Guardiola stridently defended Silva as an “exceptional person”, and winger Raheem Sterling said he felt there was no racist intent in the message, although he acknowledged he could see why offence might have been caused.
Monaco midfielder Bakayoko played alongside Silva and Mendy in a previous stint with the Ligue 1 club as a swashbuckling side won the title and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2016-17.
Like Guardiola and Sterling, he alluded to the pair’s strong friendship.
“I’m quite surprised and shocked that it went so far,” he told Omnisport. “We all know that Bernardo and Ben are very close.
“I have been on their team, I saw them every day during three years, I know their relationship. I think it’s a shame to punish them for this.
“I almost don’t want to answer, because we all know how Bernardo is. He’s sweet, he’s very kind, he has a big heart. So no, clearly, he’s not racist.”
Important win tonight! Well done lads! pic.twitter.com/oip47DGcHp
— Bernardo Silva (@BernardoCSilva) September 28, 2019
As part of Silva’s submission to the FA to apologise for the tweet, Mendy defended his friend and explained he took no offence over the racially insensitive post.
Bakayoko remembers jokes between the two being a regular feature during their Monaco days.
“They were picking [on] each other, it was fair game,” he said. “They like to joke about each other, but they really like each other.
“This is what matters. Now we’re talking about racism between them, I can’t believe it.
“But I realise that it’s getting bigger, I hope it won’t go as far as a suspension for a few games.”
If found guilty, Silva could face a fine and/or a suspension and be enrolled on an education course.
The FA this year increased its minimum ban for instances of racist abuse during matches to six games, although this does not automatically apply to social media posts.