Berlin: Bullied German footballer Kevin Pezzoni has said he believes his ex-club Cologne used the threatening behaviour from fans, who threatened him with violence at his home, to terminate his contract.
The 23-year-old was bullied by Cologne fans who threatened him with physical violence and confronted him outside his home, forcing him to quit the second division club ten days ago.
But the defender has told Sunday's edition of German daily Die Welt he believes the club took advantage of the situation to cut short his contract.
"I never wanted to cancel my contract. A proposal was put forward to me by the club," said Pezzoni who said he had no choice but to accept the termination of his contract by mutual consent.
"What else could I have expected? My situation was not going to get any better," he added.
"Who knows if after the next bad game these guys would have suddenly appeared in my apartment rather than just outside it.
"A club is supposed to protect its players and supporters, but this was not the case."
Having joined Cologne in 2008 from Blackburn Rovers, Pezzoni, who had his nose broken by a fan in February while celebrating in the city, told club coach Holger Stanislawski he no longer felt safe playing for the team.
Pezzoni's plight has sent shockwaves through Germany's footballing community with national coach Joachim Loew having insisted the situation is "unacceptable".
National team manager Olive Bierhoff also branded those fans responsible as "criminals".
"Now, it should be clear to everyone that there can be no tolerance of an event like this," Reinhard Rauball the president of the German Football League (DFL) has said.