Football: Townsend baffled by 'monkey' joke stories but others critical

LONDON (AFP) - England winger Andros Townsend said on Thursday that he was not offended by a joke about a monkey told to the squad by national football manager Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson apologised after several British newspapers reported that he had told the joke at half-time of his side's 2-0 win over Poland on Tuesday, which saw them qualify for next year's World Cup.

According to the reports, Hodgson encouraged his players to pass the ball to in-form Tottenham Hotspur winger Townsend by telling a joke about a monkey being sent into space by US space agency Nasa.

The word 'monkey' can have racist connotations, but although the joke concludes with the words "feed the monkey", it is not racist in nature.

Townsend is of Cypriot and Jamaican descent.

Writing on Twitter, he said: "I don't know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy!"

In a statement, Hodgson had said: "I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time.

"There was absolutely no intention on my part to say anything inappropriate. I made this clear straight away to Andros in the dressing room.

"I also spoke to Andros again on Wednesday. He has assured me and the FA (Football Association) he did not take any offence, and understood the point I was making in the manner I intended."

Hodgson received support from England striker Wayne Rooney, who tweeted: "Seen the story on roy this morning. He done nothing wrong. This is ridiculous."

The joke, which reportedly emerged at Nasa in the 1960s and 1970s, is about a man being sent into space for the first time alongside a monkey.

The astronaut becomes frustrated that the monkey is being asked to do all the work and radios mission control to ask what he should do.

Nasa replies: "Don't touch anything - just feed the monkey."

Former England striker Stan Collymore was critical of the newspaper reports, writing on Twitter that the joke was inoffensive and that the story "demeans every anti racism campaigner by having (a) cheap pop at RH (Hodgson) who said NOTHING WRONG".

However, British anti-discrimination group Kick It Out urged the FA to launch an investigation into the incident.

"Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, recognises and shares the concerns of the parties who felt mindful to bring the comments into the public domain," it said in a statement.

"The matter has been raised by the chair, Lord Herman Ouseley, directly with the Football Association, which acknowledges the apology made by Roy Hodgson, and now seeks an investigation to ascertain the full facts and ensure a similar situation does not arise again."

The executive director of European anti-racism organisation Fare, Piara Power, said that the England manager should have chosen his words more carefully.

"Hodgson used very silly term within a diverse team environment," Power said on Twitter. "He should know better."

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