England team-mates jump to Alli's defence over middle-finger gesture
Video footage has emerged that appears to support Dele Alli's claim that he was showing his middle finger at England team-mate Kyle Walker and not the referee, but that has not stopped calls for the midfielder to be banned due to his responsibility as a role model.
The Tottenham midfielder was captured on camera flicking his middle finger at someone during England's 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Monday night, a result that puts them on the cusp of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Both England manager Gareth Southgate and Alli himself rejected accusations that he aimed the gesture at referee Clement Turpin, and claimed that the 21-year-old was actually engaging in a private joke with his former Tottenham colleague Walker.
Footage has now emerged of Alli's gesture from a wider angle that appears to support his case, although it is not definitive proof given that Turpin is still relatively close to Alli's eyeline if he is looking towards Walker.
Despite his defence, many fans were still disappointed to see Alli make such a gesture. This is because the match was not only shown on prime-time television, but England matches are regularly attended by a larger ratio of young children than Premier League matches as they are the perfect opportunity for families to watch the national team.
One social media user commented: "Dele Alli should be banned. My 8 year old son watches all these so called stars and copies their celebrations etc. Not acceptable!"
Another added: "Dele Alli is a role model to thousands of kids. He needs to be fined/banned for that @CoachingFamily @GRFootball."
Alli did apologise for the gesture while explaining that he did not intend to offend.
He wrote on Twitter after the match: "Just to clarify, the gesture tonight was a joke between me and my good friend Kyle Walker! Apologies for any offence caused! Great win 2nite."
However, Walker saw the funny side of it, with the Manchester City defender posting a clip of Mr Bean, the famous British character played by actor Rowan Atkinson, performing a similar gesture.
Alli was also defended by his team-mate Joe Hart, with the England goalkeeper stressing that while he perhaps should have known better given the number of eyes on the match, it was a harmless gesture, and one that he believes will be "dealt with in the right way".
"The world is watching and Dele appreciates that," the England goalkeeper said.
"He is a young expressive guy who is trying to get to the peak of his game and sometimes he is going to do things that not everyone is going to agree with.
"I think we all know what has gone on - no one has got hurt from it, let's be honest.
"Luckily, and hopefully, it was after 9pm and after the watershed. Kids are watching, Dele appreciates that. I'm sure it will be dealt with in the right way."
Hart, currently on loan at West Ham from Manchester City, believes that such actions can also be the by-product of those individuals who play with passion.
Asked if it was better Alli learns from such examples now rather than on the grand stage of a World Cup, Hart replied: "Yes, but it's a tough one in football because not everyone is the same character.
"Sometimes the best players, the most expressive players, have got something about them. Obviously you want to angle it and you want to get the best out of them.
"Sometimes you have to deal with situations, but if that's the worst thing that's going to come out of the game, we are doing pretty well as a squad."
Alli could yet face action if Fifa decide he has a case to answer.
Earlier this year, Lionel Messi was given a four-match ban for allegedly swearing at an official, although the suspension was later lifted after the Argentina forward was deemed to have not directed the slur directly at the assistant referee.
Independent News Service