EXCLUSIVE: Letchworth Chelsea fan speaks out after monkey gesture case dropped
A CHELSEA fan who was arrested after a picture appeared to show him making a monkey gesture at a football game has declared he is not a racist.
Gavin Kirkham, who lives in Letchworth GC town centre, was released without charge by the Metropolitan Police after being arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence during a match between Chelsea and Manchester United.
Mr Kirkham was snapped at the Capital One Cup fourth round tie at Stamford Bridge on October 31 by a photographer, which appeared to show the 28-year-old making a monkey gesture towards black Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck.
The floor fitter admitted swearing and making rude gestures at players, but denied any abuse was of a racist nature. Speaking exclusively to the Comet, Mr Kirkham said: “I was highly animated being in the front row and was jumping up and down when the photo was taken.
“I was very animated throughout the game and maybe I shouldn’t have got so involved.”
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The picture was published in national newspapers, who camped outside Mr Kirkham’s home in the aftermath.
“My family and friends who are from many different backgrounds all stood by me but the national press made me out to be a racist,” he said.
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“I don’t agree with racism either in football or in the wider world and I don’t tolerate it in my life.
“I was meant to see my daughter, but I couldn’t pick her up in case the press followed me. I couldn’t go home and get changed or even send anyone for me as I didn’t want the press questioning them. I found it very distressing.”
The life-long Chelsea fan was provisionally banned from visiting Stamford Bridge and hasn’t heard anything from the club since.
Mr Kirkham is now volunteering at the Khalsa Football Academy, set up in Letchworth GC to tackle racist behaviour through football.
He said: “I just want to be able to move on now. Hopefully I can rebuild my character and show the person I really am.”