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By ESPN Staff

Clemente denies racism in Eto'o storm

MADRID, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Athletic Bilbao coach Javier Clemente said on Monday that his comments about Samuel Eto'o after the Barcelona striker spat at one of his players were not intended to be racist.

'At first I didn't know that it was Eto'o who I did it,' the former Spain coach told the Cadena Ser radio station. 'He's a great bloke but I expect he will regret what he did.

'I don't make any distinction between the behaviour of black and white people. If it had been (Barca defender Carles) Puyol who had done it I would have said exactly the same thing.

'It's more sporting to punch an opponent than to spit at him.'

Clemente criticised the Cameroon international's behaviour after television pictures showed Eto'o spitting at defender Unai Exposito in the closing minutes of Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Bilbao at the Nou Camp.

'Spitting is ugly behaviour,' Clemente told a post-match news conference. 'I thought it was something that people who had just come down out of the trees did.'

But the former Spain coach was anxious to clarify his remarks in his interview with Cadena Ser.

'Bad behaviour has to be eliminated from the pitch. We are all sensitive about racism and we don't give a good example by behaving like that.

'When I talked about people who had just come down from the trees I mean everyone whether they be white, black or yellow ... Sometimes I should be up in the tree too when I give a bad example.'

Eto'o also played down the incident and insisted that he had not intended to spit at Exposito.

'I've had the chance to speak to their boss (Clemente) and he has said some very nice things to me,' he told TV3's 'Gol a Gol' programme.

'I hope we will talk again and I hope he will rectify what he said. These things happen in football and people say them in the heat of the moment. If I spat at an opponent I apologise for that too.'