European football’s governing body, Uefa, has suspended Swiss striker Alex Frei for three international matches for spitting at an opponent during Euro 2004.This content was published on July 15, 2004 - 18:23
But in a ruling issued on Thursday, the Swiss Football Association (SFA) was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The suspension comes after Frei was found guilty of spitting at England midfielder Steven Gerrard during a match at the European football championships in Portugal.
Frei was provisionally suspended for his side’s last Euro 2004 match against France, in which Switzerland was eliminated from the tournament.
He will now also miss Switzerland’s World Cup qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Ireland in September.
A Uefa disciplinary commission had originally dismissed the case against Frei for lack of evidence.
Frei – who turned 25 on Thursday – said he had only sworn at Gerrard after the England player pushed him from behind.
But Swiss television footage later surfaced showing the player clearly spitting at the player during the England match, which Switzerland lost 3-0.
The SFA decided on the basis of the evidence that it would not be possible to oppose a suspension.
Frei faced the Uefa appeals board at its headquarters in Nyon for five hours on Wednesday.
According to media reports, his lawyer pleaded for a one-match suspension, while the disciplinary board had called for the player to be suspended for five games.
Italian star Francesco Totti also received a three-game suspension for a spitting incident during the tournament.
SFA in the clear
The SFA stood accused of forcing Frei to lie about the incident, but in its ruling Uefa said it had uncovered no evidence that members of the association has acted improperly.
The association said in a statement that it regretted Frei’s suspension, which ruled him out of upcoming World Cup qualification matches.
But it added that it was satisfied with Uefa’s finding that the SFA had committed no wrongdoing in connection with the Frei affair.
"[We are] pleased to hear that Uefa has found no evidence of disciplinary offences on the part of the SFA," the association said in a statement.
“As we've already started an independent investigation - which will show whether association officials knew about the spitting and whether they influenced the player because of this - the association wishes to wait for the results of the investigation before making any comment.”
Once that report is complete, the SFA said it would “take the necessary action”.
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland played only three matches at Euro 2004.
They drew 0-0 against Croatia, lost 3-0 to England and were knocked out after losing 3-1 to France.
Frei spat on England midfielder Steve Gerrard in the 77th minute during the match in Coimbra on June 17.
The referee did not see the incident and play continued.
A German television station brought the incident to Uefa's attention, but no action was taken for lack of evidence.
Swiss television then produced new images that proved Frei's guilt.
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