A successful World Cup 2010 can silence racists, says Samuel Eto’o
â€¢ Cameroonian hopes tournament can diminish racism
â€¢ ‘Is the world ready for an African team to win?’
Samuel Eto’o believes the World Cup in South Africa can help to diminish the racism that has blighted European football. The Cameroon captain, who has been racially abused while playing for Barcelona in Spain and, this season, for Internazionale in Italy, feels a successful tournament could mark a turning point.
“It’s never been easy and until the end of my career it won’t be easy,” Eto’o told the Guardian. “But maybe this World Cup, being the first in Africa, can change attitudes. I hope so but I suffered a lot in Italy this year. So it’s not just one country where there is racism. But to obtain these rewards you have to go through that. And that’s why it’s incredible we’re playing in the country where my idol, Madiba [Nelson Mandela], lives …
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet him twice. It was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me.
“That’s why I’m so proud to be African in this World Cup. Like most Africans I had to work much harder and show much deeper belief than others. I started with nothing and reached the level I’m at today. All I had was football and God’s help. But I made it and now I’m going home, to Africa, where we can show a different face to the world.
“Most people only see Africa in terms of poverty and war, famine and disease. But this World Cup gives us the chance to show something different. I think the whole world is going to be really surprised by Africa. This could be the best World Cup in history.”
The striker addressed the racism he has endured throughout his club career. “It’s always been a very tough journey for African footballers â€“ and it’s still tough today. I suffered a lot. I had to deal with it so often I found ways of making a point against racism. When I played against Real Zaragoza they chanted like monkeys and threw peanuts on the pitch. So when I scored I danced in front of them like a monkey. When the same thing happened against Real Madrid I scored and held my fist in a Black Power salute.”
When he joined Barcelona in 2004, Eto’o said he would “run like a black man to live like a white man.”. Eto’o told the Guardian: “People didn’t really understand the deep meaning of my words. Some treated me as a racist but the reality was there. What I was trying to say is that [as an African] I need to do more than others to be recognized at the same level.”
Eto’o implied that it has been difficult for African teams to progress in previous World Cups. Cameroon became the first African country to reach the quarter-finals, at Italia 90, where they conceded two penalties, both scored by Gary Lineker, and lost in extra-time to England. Stressing that he still sometimes watches that match on tape, Eto’o said: “I think the world wasn’t ready for an African team to reach the semi-finals.”
At the 1998 World Cup, when the 17 year-old Eto’o was the youngest player in the tournament, Cameroon were more harshly treated. “It was very traumatising because we needed to beat Chile to make the second round â€“ and we had two penalties which were refused.,” We were knocked out and France went on to win.
” The question we have all the time is whether an African team is able to win the World Cup. But the real question is whether the world is ready for an African team to become champions.”
Asked whether some officials might favour traditional European and South American countries over African teams, Eto’o was diplomatic. “I’m still a player. I can’t say that sort of thing. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 20 years and in Europe so many leading players are African. If we prepare properly then one of the African teams can do something special.”