A day after being feted for guiding England to the World Cup, Roy Hodgson found himself entangled in a racism controversy for making a joke about monkeys during halftime.
England players took to Twitter on Thursday to defend their manager, who was also backed by the English Football Association, but anti-racism campaigners are calling for an investigation into an incident that has taken some of the shine off England's qualification for next year's tournament in Brazil.
Hodgson has apologized after recounting an old joke about space monkeys in the England dressing room during Tuesday's match against Poland, as he attempted to explain how he wanted his players to pass the ball more to winger Andros Townsend.
Townsend is black and the word "monkey" can have racist connotations.
"I would like to apologize if any offense has been caused by what I said at halftime," Hodgson said in a statement issued late Wednesday. "There was absolutely no intention on my part to say anything inappropriate. I made this clear straightaway to Andros in the dressing room.
"I also spoke to Andros again on Wednesday. He has assured me and the FA he did not take any offense, and understood the point I was making in the manner I intended."
Townsend backed up Hodgson's comments by tweeting his reaction to a controversy that was getting plenty of play on social media sites.
"I don't know what all this fuss is about," the Tottenham winger wrote. "No offence was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy!"
England striker Wayne Rooney added on Twitter that the story was "ridiculous" and that Hodgson has "done nothing wrong."
Later Thursday, FA chairman Greg Dyke defended Hodgson's character and said the organization has talked "extensively" to squad members about the incident.
"Roy Hodgson is a man of the highest integrity, an honorable man who is doing a great job with the England team. He has and deserves the full support of The Football Association," Dyke said.
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