Eva Carneiro’s case against Chelsea and Jose Mourinho looks likely to hinge on the interpretation of a Portuguese expression – and the Football Association has already cleared the former Blues boss of wrongdoing.
Carneiro is claiming constructive dismissal against Chelsea and has a separate, but connected, personal legal action against Mourinho, who left the club in December, for alleged victimisation and discrimination.
The case, which is anticipated to be heard over seven to 10 days until June 24, opened at Croydon Employment Tribunal on Monday, but could still be settled at any time.
The procedural first morning of discussions centred around the order of witnesses – to include Mourinho, now Manchester United boss but apparently indemnified by Chelsea – and in particular the Portuguese language experts from either side.
Carneiro claims that as she ran on to the pitch during the August 8, 2015 game with Swansea, Mourinho shouted “filha da puta”, meaning daughter of a whore in Portuguese, at her.
Dr Eva Carneiro's skeletal legal argument to employment tribunal thus begins… pic.twitter.com/KOmIba6UEZ
— Richard Conway (@richard_conway) June 6, 2016
The panel was read an extract from Mourinho’s statement in which he conceded that he used the term “filho da puta”, meaning “son of of a bitch”.
The FA ruled on September 30, 2015 that “the words used do not constitute discriminatory language” after consulting an independent academic expert in Portuguese linguistics.
“The words used, as translated and analysed by the independent expert, and the video evidence, do not support the conclusion that the words were directed at any person in particular,” the FA said in its ruling.
Afterwards, Carneiro and the FA’s independent board member, Dame Heather Rabbatts, criticised the governing body for not interviewing the doctor as part of its investigation.
Mary O’Rourke QC, representing Dr Carneiro, insisted on Monday that her client had no doubt what was said to her.
“As she ran on to the pitch she heard clearly from behind her the words filha da puta,” O’Rourke said.
In his statement, Mourinho said: “Filho da puta is a phrase I often use, all of the players know it. There is no sexist connotation in the use of the phrase – it is just like saying ‘f*** off’.
“In the world of football, a lot of swear words are used.”
The former Chelsea manager highlighted that he had been using the term throughout the game.
He added that midfielder Cesc Fabregas had used the Spanish equivalent of the term when a Chelsea player was fouled during the game.
In his statement, Mourinho said: “Cesc and I both speak English well, but in the heat of the game we both swear in our mother language.
“Eva was not on the pitch at that point in time.”
O’Rourke said: “He uses the word ‘filha’ because he is abusing a woman.”
In an opening argument, she argued the expression is “very offensive” and that it was aimed at her client because she was the “only female pitchside”.
Chelsea also accuse Carneiro of being publicity hungry. Cite her nominating a player for the Ice Bucket Challenge on YouTube and (1/2)
— Ben Rumsby (@ben_rumsby) June 6, 2016
And "seeking to position herself behind Mr Mourinho during televised matches" (2/2).
— Ben Rumsby (@ben_rumsby) June 6, 2016
Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn were criticised by Mourinho and dropped from first-team duties following the draw with Swansea on the opening day of the 2015-16 Premier League season.
The pair went on to the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, an action which meant Chelsea were temporarily down to nine men as they had already had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sent off.
Afterwards Mourinho called Carneiro and Fearn “impulsive and naive”.
In a post-match television television interview, Mourinho added: “Even if you are a kit man, a doctor or a secretary on the bench you have to understand the game.”
Carneiro’s claim argues the words were discriminatory and “very female specific comments in the male dominated football world”.
Chelsea and Mourinho contend otherwise. Many club secretaries are male.
“The suggestion that these remarks were targeted specifically at the claimant, rather and both Mr Fearn and her, is opportunistic and unjustified,” the respondents said.
The case continues.