Former Chelsea playing legend Gianfranco Zola insists Didier Drogba must have been provoked into throwing a coin back at Burnley fans during the Blues' shock Carling Cup fourth-round defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Ivory Coast striker Drogba is under fire for his actions while celebrating his 27th-minute opening goal - before Chelsea were eventually dumped out 5-4 on penalties - and investigations into the incident have been launched by the Metropolitan Police and the Football Association.
However, West Ham coach Zola said: "I know Drogba is a very composed and honest player. He is always fair."
He added: "If he reacted, maybe he has been insulted and that is not good in football.
"A couple of weeks ago there was an anti-racism campaign. I don't know if this was a racist act or not. The crowd has to respect the players, and the other way round.
"I don't know what happened but I know he is a fair player and an honest player - a straight player. You have to understand they are human beings and when you are playing an important match you are under pressure. Sometimes your composure can be lost. It's not easy, you are walking on the edge all the time."
Drogba issued a post-match apology for his behaviour but it may not save him from further action.
But according to players' chief Gordon Taylor, a three-match ban is the only appropriate punishment. Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, believes the precedent for Drogba's misdemeanour is already there, and that a similar punishment should be expected.
"It's there for all to see, he's done something that's against the rules required of players, and a similar situation resulted in a three-match ban for Jamie Carragher," Taylor said.
"So it would be very difficult to avoid an accusation that they (the FA) are inconsistent if they don't follow that line."
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