Kiko Casilla: Leeds goalkeeper gets eight-match ban for racism

Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla
Kiko Casilla has started every Championship game for Leeds this season

Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla has been banned for eight matches and fined £60,000 after being found guilty of racially abusing Charlton Athletic forward Jonathan Leko.

The 33-year-old, who denied the charge, has also been ordered to attend a face-to-face education session.

The incident took place in Charlton's win over the Whites on 28 September.

"I do not feel at all that the guilty verdict is a clear reflection of the incident," Casilla said in a statement.

The charge was found proven by an independent regulatory commission.

The Football Association began an investigation in October and subsequently charged Casilla with a breach of FA Rule E3.

It was alleged the Spaniard's words "made reference to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin", constituting an aggravated breach, and the FA granted Casilla extra time to respond to the charge.

Under rules introduced for the 2019-20 season, the minimum suspension for a player found guilty of an aggravated breach of the FA's discrimination rules is six matches, which can be increased depending on any additional aggravating factors.

How Casilla and Leeds responded

Casilla posted a message on his Twitter accountexternal-link saying he felt "truly sad and devastated" about being accused of making a racist comment.

"[The] last five months have been the most difficult ones in my professional career," he added.

"I am sure my family, friends, colleagues and the different technical teams whom I have been working with for all these years know that I would NEVER use my words with a racist meaning.

"I would like to deeply thank Leeds for its support during this time and I appreciate the support of our amazing fans, whose warmth has strengthened me."

Leeds released a statementexternal-link responding to the suspension, saying the club "do not tolerate any form of discrimination" but added it is "important to recognise" that Casilla "has always denied making any racist comment".

The Yorkshire club said the decision had been made "on the balance of probability rather than proving Kiko to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt, which we have always believed is the more appropriate burden of proof".

However, the independent regulatory commission will not publish their written reasons for their decision until next week.

Casilla to miss bulk of run-in

Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Casilla joined Leeds in January 2019 and has been an ever-present for the Championship club this season.

His suspension could impact their promotion bid, with the Whites second in the table and five points clear of third-placed Fulham as they bid to return to the Premier League for the first time since suffering relegation in 2003-04.

With 11 games of the regular campaign remaining, the Spaniard will be available to play again when Leeds host Barnsley on 18 April.

Teenager Illan Meslier has been back-up to Casilla on the bench since mid-December, and could feature at Hull City on Saturday as Casilla starts his ban.

The 19-year-old Frenchman, who moved to Elland Road on loan from Lorient last summer, has made just one first-team appearance for Marcelo Bielsa's side.

That came in the 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup third round in January.

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