Austria star Marko Arnautovic has denied being a racist while apologising for making an offensive slur in his side's win over North Macedonia, but is now the subject of a UEFA investigation.
Arnautovic scored in Austria's 3-1 victory on Sunday and was seen gesturing in the direction of North Macedonia's Ezgjan Alioski, allegedly saying: "I'm f*cking your Albanian mother".
The striker has been accused of using a racially charged word during his confrontation with Alioski, but Arnautovic has denied it while also apologising for the "heated" incident.
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What did Arnautovic have to say?
"There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to APOLOGIZE - especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania," he wrote on Instagram.
"I would like to say one thing very clearly: I AM NOT A RACIST! I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that."
UEFA has launched an official investigation into Arnautovic's actions after receiving a letter from The North Macedonian Football Association (FFM) in which it demanded that the 32-year-old face the "severest punishment".
The statement released on Tuesday morning reads: "In accordance with the Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, an Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding the incident involving the player Marko Arnautovic that occurred during the 2020 European Championship group-stage match between the national teams of Austria and North Macedonia on 13 June 2021.
"Further information on this matter will be made available in due course."
The meaning behind Arnautovic's words
The use of language reportedly dates back to the Kosovo War, with Arnautovic, whose father is Serbian, targeting Alioski, who is of Albanian origins.
Arnautovic allegedly used an anti-Albanian slur towards Egzon Bejtulai before then celebrating his goal by yelling towards Alioski, only stopping after being restrained by team-mate David Alaba.
There is historic tension between Serbia and Albania, while Serbia and North Macedonia have long had a tense relationship.
The politics surrounding these countries were also a major talking point at the 2018 World Cup, when Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri were fined £7,600 each after the two Swiss stars, who have Albanian links, celebrated by putting their hands together to form a double-headed eagle representing the Albanian flag during a game against Serbia.