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Celtic star Tonev: 'I am not a racist'




Celtic's coach Ronny Deila

Celtic's coach Ronny Deila



Celtic winger Aleksandar Tonev has insisted he is not a racist as he prepares to resume a seven-match ban for abusing Aberdeen full-back Shay Logan.

The on-loan Aston Villa player was described as neither a "credible or reliable" witness by a Scottish Football Association-appointed judicial panel in a report that was made public on Tuesday after he lost his appeal against his ban for using racist language.

In a statement posted on the Celtic website, Tonev said: "A lot has happened in the last few months. It has been a very difficult time for me and everyone involved. All I can do is move on from this now.

"I have made my case all along that I never used the words I was accused of using. I say again that I did not do this, I know what I am and I am not a racist.

"I want everyone to understand that, most of all the Celtic fans, who have been a great support to me since coming to the club. I know what happened and I know that I will definitely recover from this as a stronger person."

Celtic have stood by the Bulgarian despite parts of his evidence being described as "unsatisfactory".

The club vowed to address the case with the SFA following the verdict of the appeal panel, which called for both its report and the original panel's findings to be made public.

Tonev has already served the first of his seven-match suspension before Celtic appealed and the next match he is eligible for is against Ross County on January 24.

Meanwhile, Ronny Deila (below) has urged Celtic fans to stop bringing flares to games or face the prospect of Parkhead being shut down on a big European match night.

The Scottish champions will appear before UEFA's disciplinary committee for the fifth time in just three years after a flare was let off during the Europa League clash with Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia on December 11.

Repeat offenders face increased fines and eventual partial or complete closure of their stadiums and Deila, whose team have landed a plum last-32 tie with Inter Milan, fears UEFA will run out of patience with Celtic.

The club will answer the charges on February 19 - the day they face Inter at Parkhead - and if found guilty, they could face sanctions at their next home match.

That, according to Deila, is too big a price to pay and he is warning fans who misbehave to think of the consequences before starting the pyrotechnics displays.

He said: "It's hard for the club to control - that's the responsibility of the supporters. We need to be finished with it and concentrate on football.

"It's about values and how we want other nations and teams and people to look at Celtic. It's been fantastic for so many years and 99.9 per cent is good now as well. That's one of the biggest things about Celtic - the supporters - and we have to keep up that reputation.

In 2005, Inter had the San Siro closed for the visit of Rangers in the Champions League over repeated misbehaviour of their fans.