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  -   NEWS
Thursday, December 5, 2002
Bobby 'Three Fingers' pulls out

PERTH (Reuters) - Perth's Bobby Despotovski will miss the game against Melbourne because of safety fears after he gave a controversial on-field salute in a match between the two sides last year.

The striker made a three-fingered salute across his chest at Melbourne Knights fans who taunted him during a scoreless National Soccer League (NSL) playoff on May 2001.

Knights supporters of Croatian descent claimed the gesture was a Serbian war symbol but Despotovski denied this, saying it was religious. Perth players and officials were attacked by Knights fans as they tried to leave the dressing room to board the team bus after the match.

'Bobby has decided after much consideration and deliberation that he won't make himself available for this weekend's game,' Perth coach Mich d'Avray told a news conference on Thursday.

'We said all along it was Bobby's decision and we respect and support that decision.

'He feels it is as much for the safety of his team mates as well as himself that he has made this decision which is rather disappointing.'

An Australian soccer disciplinary tribunal found Despotovski guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, but did not charge him with inciting crowd violence. He was fined US $1,120.

Another Australian soccer tribunal last year fined the Knights US $16,800 after the Melbourne club pleaded guilty to bringing the game into disrepute.

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