According to a report on the Asian Football Confederation’s official website, Barcelona star striker Samuel Eto’o is set to leave European football in his prime (he’s 29) and move to Saudi club Al Ittihad.
The reigning African Footballer of the Year, Eto’o has endured numerous episodes of racist abuse during his time with Barca, in both Spanish League and UEFA Champions League play, culminating in Eto’o walking off the field in the middle of a match against Racing Santander a few weeks ago. It’s only logical to presume Eto’o is making the move to Asia to escape the pervasive racism in European football, sacrificing money and the highest level of competition for happiness and a higher quality of life.
Racism in European Football has (thankfully and finally) come to the forefront as the #1 issue for FIFA and Sepp Blatter in the last few years. It’s been a problem for years, from National Teams to Clubs to Sponsors to Fans. FIFA has enacted rules to stop the European-African youth labor trade, where scores of young African footballing teens would be brought to European clubs to train (cheaply), with the best being promoted to the first team while the rest were cut loose to fend for themselves in a foreign country with no job and no support. But still problems with fans persist.
Superstars like Eto’o and Thierry Henry have been outspoken about the problem, and Nike has backed them with the “Stand Up, Speak Up” campaign. But what can be done to reach the level of the average fan?
The Eto’o decision to leave it all behind will hopefully be the Tipping Point. The racist fans and their supporting clubs and federations are the true a**holes in all of this. But we as football fans are the losers, as we’ll be deprived of regularly watching the genius of a great player in the midst of his prime footballing years compete at the highest levels of competition.
The great winner in all of this is Eto’o. Despite the constant abuse, he has handled all situations with grace and dignity. And he will hopefully be remembered as the man who initiated the final movement to stamp racism from the Beautiful Game.
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