(Reuters) - Austria forward Marko Arnautovic on Monday apologised for his angry reaction towards North Macedonia supporters after scoring in their 3-1 victory over the European Championship debutants, but he denied using racist language against them.
Arnautovic, who came on as a second-half substitute and struck late in Sunday's comfortable victory, appeared furious as he celebrated his goal before captain David Alaba stepped in to restrict him.
Some media reports said that the 32-year-old's anger was also directed at North Macedonian players Egzon Bejtulai and Gjanni Alioski, both of whom have Albanian roots.
"There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise - especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania," Arnautovic, who has Serbian background, said on Instagram.
"I would like to say one thing very clearly: I am not a racist. I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that."
Serbia does not recognise the independence of its former province Kosovo, while there is historic tension between Serbia and North Macedonia.
Austria take on the Netherlands at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on Thursday, while North Macedonia next play Ukraine.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)