'It's nothing racist at all. It's just sometimes they can have a bad attitude...nothing against the African race at all.'
West Ham finds itself in the middle of a messy situation after an email from the club's director of transfers revealed a policy against signing any more African players.
In an email obtained by the Daily Mail, director of player recruitment Tony Henry said, "We don't want any more Africans and [a certain Cameroonian player isn't] good enough. I sent Thomas to watch him and the other lad last week and he said no. If Palace take them good luck."
The Daily Mail then asked Henry about the emails. At first, he denied that the club has any sort of policy regarding African players, but he quickly reversed course and admitted it's true after he was told that the newspaper knows he told more than one agent that West Ham doesn't want more Africans. From the Daily Mail:
Henry then confirmed it was true and suggested it was a policy supported by club management. ‘Yeah,’ Henry replied. ‘Because we had three and we felt we didn’t particularly want any more African players.’
Asked why, Henry replied: ‘Erm, no reason. It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude.
‘We had problems with Sakho, with Diafra Sakho. We find that when they are not in the team they cause mayhem. It’s nothing against the African race at all.
‘I mean, look, there are top African players. There’s not a problem with them. It’s just sometimes they cause a lot of problems when they are not playing, as we had with Diafra. He’s left, so great. It’s nothing personal at all.’
West Ham currently has six first-team players of African descent—Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Pedro Obiang (Equitorial Guinea), Arthur Masuaku (Nigeria), Joao Mario (Angolan descent, represents Portugal), Angelo Ogbanna (Nigerian descent, represents Italy) and Edimilson Fernandex (Cape Verdean descent, represents Switzerland).
When asked whether he thinks his comments could equate to a slight toward African players, Henry drew a comparison between the club's stance and similar apprehensiveness toward signing other internationals:
‘I could say we get offered Russian players. I just find with Russian players that they don’t settle in England.
‘It’s like Italians. How many Italians come and settle in England? As a club we are not discriminatory at all.
‘If you’ve got too many, they all sit together and it becomes a situation where you can have problems. But then you can have problems with English players. I don’t know what you are driving at.’
West Ham sits 12th in the Premier League with 27 points.