Van driver charged with throwing banana skin at Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says: ‘I’m NOT racist’

Van driver Averof Panteli, 57, threw the piece of fruit when the Gabon captain scored the first of his two goals in the Gunners' 4-2 derby win.

The lifelong Spurs fan and grandfather-of-two told The Sun Online he picked up banana skin after a child had finished eating it – and threw it without thinking about the racial implications.

He was arrested and charged after a nearby steward pointed him out to pitch-side cops.

Speaking from his home in Norwich, Norfolk, he said he "swears on his kids' lives" that he is not racist.

He said: "I am not racist whatsoever. I am actually a Greek Cypriot. I am 100 per cent not a racist. I swear on my kids’ lives that I am not that kind of guy.

"I apologise if I have offended anyone from both clubs, especially Tottenham. It was a mad thing I did and I never meant to offend anyone in any way. I never meant anything by it.

"The Arsenal player was gloating in front of the away fans. He came up towards the away fans about 10m away and he is basically nodding his head and clapping at us.

"Without thinking, I picked up this banana skin from the ground and threw it on the edge of the pitch. I didn’t throw it at the players. It was just on the edge of the pitch.

"I am not condoning what I did and I regret it already."

Mr Panteli said he intended to plead guilty to throwing a missile on the pitch when he appears at Highbury Corner magistrates court on December 18.

After phoning club bosses to apologise, he was slapped with a lifetime ban from Spurs matches – meaning he will miss the new stadium's long-awaited opening next year.

He added: "The police were happy to say it was not racism.

"I phoned Tottenham to apologise and they said they would be getting in touch with me to ban me for life.

"I have been friends with black people all my life.

"I do not have a criminal record and I have never been in trouble with the law in my life.

"The only thing I have ever did was run on the pitch at Spurs when I was 14 and I got chucked out of the ground."

Footie fans lined up to condemn the incident after images of the banana skin went viral last night.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright branded the fan an ‘idiot’ – and dubbed him an "embarrassment" to his club and the Premier League.

He fumed: "I've played against Spurs and I've taken a lot of abuse from Spurs but never ever has it been racial.

"Now Spurs have to deal with that and have that tainting all over them. It's really unfortunate to see."

Aubameyang took to Instagram after the match following the victory where he posed a picture of himself next to the banana, where he said: "#whysmandoingthis?"

A Spurs spokesman added: "Behaviour such as this is completely unacceptable and the supporter in question will be issued with a ban."

Also charged with throwing things onto the pitch were Charlie Watts, 26, and Jason Gannon, 36.

Paul Wright, 41, was charged with a public order offence.

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