Matildas coach supports Sam Kerr after racism charge

    Coach Tony Gustavsson has refused to comment on a possible change in captaincy, but says he will “always support” Sam Kerr after the Matildas skipper was charged with racial harassment.

    Kerr, Australia’s highest-profile sportswoman, faced a court in London charged with racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

    The Chelsea striker was charged on January 21 this year but did not inform Football Australia (FA) nor Gustavsson.

    Kerr allegedly used insulting, threatening or abusive language that caused alarm or distress to PC Lovell during an incident in Twickenham on January 30 last year.

    She has entered a not guilty plea and will likely face another court hearing next February.

    Gustavsson remained circumspect when questioned whether Kerr would be stripped of the captaincy but offered his support.

    “I can’t comment on anything other than referring to the FA statement,” Gustavsson told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

    “It’s a legal process right now.

    “I was informed this morning and obviously was surprised.

    “The only thing I can comment on is my experience and interaction with Sam as a person, as a footballer, and I have only positive experiences.

    “FA was very clear in terms of supporting our players on and off the field … I understand why there’s a lot of questions about it.

    “I will, as a human being, always support.”

    FA chief James Johnson also played a straight bat when asked about the captaincy.

    “It’s too early to tell … we need to understand the situation better and until that time we can’t really say anything further,” Johnson told reporters in Adelaide.

    “We need to allow the process to play out, I think that is important.

    “Sam has rights as an individual, she has pleaded not guilty and I think we need to remember that and we need to respect that.”

    Kerr is currently recovering from knee reconstructive surgery after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Chelsea’s warm weather training camp in Morocco.

    The 30-year-old is expected to be sidelined from the Matildas’ campaign at this year’s Paris Olympics.

    “I think it’s a bit too early to look at selection at this time,” Gustavsson said.

    “With Sam’s serious injury, there’s obviously a very big question mark whether she would even be up for selection.

    “I know she has the treatment and support from Chelsea in the recovery process as well.”

    Kerr, runner-up to Spain’s Aitana Bonmati at the Ballon d’Or awards last year, is Australia’s record goalscorer with 69 in 128 matches.

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