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Serie A soccer club Lecce fires manager Roberto D'Aversa for head-butting player

Former Lecce manager Roberto D'Aversa yells during a match against Verona on Sunday in Lecce, Italy. Photo by Abbondanza Scuro Lezzi/EPA-EFE
Former Lecce manager Roberto D'Aversa yells during a match against Verona on Sunday in Lecce, Italy. Photo by Abbondanza Scuro Lezzi/EPA-EFE

March 11 (UPI) -- Lecce fired manager Roberto D'Aversa after head-butting striker Thomas Henry after a loss to Verona, the Italian Serie A club announced Monday.

The incident occurred on the field after the 1-0 setback Sunday in Lecce. A broadcast camera followed the coach after the final whistle.

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He was seen walking toward Henry, before he lowered his head and connected with the striker's face. Henry briefly went to the ground before D'Aversa walked away from the area.

"After the events that occurred at the end of the Lecce-Verona match, Lecce announces that it has relieved coach Roberto D'Aversa of his duties," Lecce said in a news release. "Thanks go to the coach and his staff for the work done."

Henry and D'Aversa each were given red cards for the indicident. They later issued apologies on their Instagram accounts.

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In his apology, D'Aversa denied that he head-butted Henry, despite video footage showing it seemed to occur.

"I would like to apologize to everyone and at the same time briefly reconstruct the sad and unpleasant episode that saw me as a negative protagonist at the end of the Lecce-Verona match," D'Aversa wrote.

"I came into head-to-head contact with Henry, but I did not hit the Veronese player with a head-butt, nor did I receive one from him.

"It was a physical contact, a terrible example, an anti-sporting image resulting from great tension and adrenaline, which however must not and do not want to be my excuses or mitigating factors. "I made a mistake and I apologize. I got carried away by the heat and lost clarity, but not to the point of hitting another person.

"This does not belong to me. I reject it and do not accept it. Once again, I apologize to Henry, to the Lecce, Verona and Italian public, to the referees, to the two clubs, to my management, my staff and my team."

Henry confirmed that he was head-butted in his Instagram post.

"I apologize for having reacted with words to the many provocations experienced on the field [Sunday], which is understandable in a match with such a lot at stake," Henry wrote.

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"But this does not justify, and will never justify, receiving a head-butt when you have already made your way to the locker room."

Lecce (5-13-10) sits in 15th place in the Serie A standings. It remains in danger of relegation -- demotion to Italy's second tier -- with 10 games remaining.

The bottom three teams in the Serie A standings will be relegated to Serie B at the end of the campaign. The top three teams in Serie B will be promoted to Serie A.

Lecce, the 2021-22 Serie B champions, finished 16th last season in the 20-team Serie A. They hired D'Aversa last June. The former midfielder previously managed Italian clubs Sampdoria, Parma and Virtus Lanciano.

Verona (6-14-8), the No. 13 team in Serie A, will host AC Milan at 10 a.m. EDT Sunday in Verona. Lecce will face Salernitana in another Serie A match at 1 p.m. Saturday in Salerno.

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