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 said. “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 [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.”
The striker addressed the racism he has endured throughout his club career. “It's always been a very tough journey for African footballers — 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 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 I scored and held my fist in a Black Power salute.”