Accusations of racial abuse hanging over Brendon Santalab’s head have not been a distraction for the Western Sydney striker, coach Tony Popovic insists.
Santalab will on Monday front a disciplinary hearing to answer claims by Sydney FC midfielder Ali Abbas he was the victim of slurs against his religion and culture.
The Wanderers frontman has been embroiled in controversy since Abbas made the accusations following the heated Sydney derby at Allianz Stadium on March 8.
Santalab has denied the allegations.
After the derby Santalab was rested for the Wanderers’ Asian Champions League away clash against Guizhou Renhe but has since played in two matches, starting in the scoreless draw against Adelaide last weekend and coming on as late substitute in Wednesday’s 1-0 ACL win over Kawasaki Frontale.
The Wanderers are preparing to host Perth on Sunday, with every game now crucial heading into the business end of the A-League season.
But Popovic said despite all the attention on the issue it has been business as usual for Santalab and the club.
“No, it’s been no distraction,” Popovic said on Friday.
“We’re following the process and so is Brendon.
“He’s been good at training, he did well when he came on (on Wednesday) and we expect the same this weekend.”
As part of their investigation Football Federation Australia on Wednesday issued Santalab with a Disciplinary Notice ordering him to appear at a hearing on Monday afternoon.
It’s not known if Abbas will have to also front the behind-closed-doors hearing or whether witnesses will be called.
If they are, they may include Sydney FC striker Corey Gameriro, who tweeted after the game that he was “disgusted to what I heard tonight #SAYNOTORACISM”.
In terms of possible precedents, Newcastle striker Joel Griffiths received a three-match ban while playing for Sydney FC in February last year for a racial term shouted at a linesman.