SAO PAULO: Colombia’s Juan Zuniga received a flood of death threats and racist abuse on social media yesterday as Brazilians reacted angrily to his tournament-ending foul on star forward Neymar.
“Zuniga” was trending on Twitter and messages included a torrent of abusive comment aimed at the Napoli defender after he kneed Neymar in the back, fracturing a vertebrae.
Among the less offensive posts, contributors called the 28-year-old a “monster” and the “biggest villain in the history of football”.
The abuse was tempered by other posts which called for calm and said racist abuse was unacceptable.
Zuniga earlier said he did not mean to hurt Neymar in the challenge, which came towards the end of a combative match which saw 54 fouls.
“I never wanted to hurt the player. When I’m on the pitch, I do everything to defend my country and the shirt I wear, but always without intent to injure anybody,” he told Globo TV.
“It was a match both teams wanted to win. It got a bit heated. There were strong tackles but the Brazilians were doing the same. It’s normal. I didn’t make that challenge trying to break his spine. I was defending my country.
“It’s a very sad thing. I hope, with the help of God that it’s not too serious because everyone knows he’s a great talent for Brazil.”
Meanwhile, FIFA’s disciplinary committee could take action against Colombia’s Juan Zuniga for the challenge.
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee is analysing all the elements provided, the videos and the match reports and will decide whether or not to take action,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told a briefing.
Four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi wished his Barcelona team-mate Neymar a quick recovery after the star suffered a fractured vertebrae.
“Neymar, I hope that you recover very quickly,” wrote the Argentinian on his Facebook page alongside a photgraph of the two stars in their Barcelona shirts.