Eto’o’s response to the Zaragoza incident

17 Jan

In the next video, Eto’o discusses the events that took place at Zaragoza and tries to explain his reaction. He also comments on what he believes governing bodies such as FIFA and UEFA should do to combat racism in football.

In terms of the Zaragoza incident, Eto’o reveals that he doesn’t regret walking off the pitch. He explains that he was comforted by his teammates and the referee who came over and said, “Samuel, you are a great player and you represent a lot for football. The only thing you have to do is get two goals and it’s finished.” This is a classic example of the argument that an athlete should get on with it and prove their worth on the field. It is implied that a spectacular performance will win over the crowd and uproot the seeds of racism in the minds of those who are so un-evolved that they are still making monkey noises. It’s a tricky situation because on the one hand to walk off the field is to give them exactly what they want while to stay on the field requires an almost inhuman amount of courage and strength. After the match Eto’o was rightfully upset about the incident and spoke to the press about it. He was unprepared for the response that he would receive. The press failed to come to his aid, instead, they tried to shoot him down, as if he was making too much of it. Not only is he supposed to shut his ears to the racist chants but he is expected to shut his mouth afterwards and act as if nothing happened. Despite all of this, Eto’o seems confident in his decision to stay on the pitch and get on with it but comments that, “I don’t regret it but part of me hopes that one day someone will manage to walk off the pitch.”

In the video Eto’o brings up a number of important points which I would like to address in further detail. One of which is that he recognizes that there needs to be solidarity between those who are being subjected to racism. That the players themselves must step forward and refuse to tolerate intolerance any longer. It is a realization that the governing bodies of domestic leagues and international football are slow to respond and unwilling to take a firm stance against racism. The Spanish Football Federation has fined Real Zaragoza a laughable £6000. There is undoubtedly a great deal of politics involved in all of this, most of which I can’t pretend to understand. What I do know is that football is a business and the penalties in place such as having to play home games in empty stadiums or being penalized points (for league rankings) is bad for business. Simply put, money talks. There are rules in place to discipline clubs, whose fans hurl racist chants, and to punish individuals within the football world who are found guilty of racism. Sepp Blatter, at the helm of FIFA has taken what he considers to be a firm stance against racism. However, seldom are these rules enforced and often times they come in the form of a slap on the wrist rather than a kick in the balls.

His coach’s response:

Samuel Eto’o’s decision to get on with the game was largely influenced by his friend and teammate Ronaldinho and his coach Frank Rijkaard. They both rushed to his side when he started to head off the pitch and talked him into continuing. Frank Rijkaard, a black Dutchman of Surinam origin, knows what it is to be taunted.  As a player, he was sent off at the 1990 World Cup after spitting at Germany’s Rudi Völler, who it is believed racially insulted him. One would assume that Rijkaard would sympathize with Eto’o’s frustrations as he could personally relate to them. To the contrary, Rijkaard released a press statement after the incident that claimed that, “The more you talk about it, the more you get the possibility that certain people will react on it.” He trivialized the issue and equated abuse from the stands to songs about a player’s individual characteristics. “If someone is quite tall the people will sing songs about his height. We don’t have to overreact. You just have to do your job,” Rijkaard said. This is a surprising stance from a man who is famous in part for being shown a red card for reacting to racial insults rather than letting them slide. His final comment was that black players should “get on with their work”. I have a feeling that the work he is referring to is more than just helping their team win championships but rather helping win over the hearts and minds of those who still believe that blacks are inferior to whites.



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