Eto’o apologises for ‘violent altercation’ at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar — Cameroon football federation president and former star player Samuel Eto’o has apologised for being involved in a “violent altercation” with a man outside a World Cup stadium on Tuesday.

Eto’o had paused to pose for photos with fans near Stadium 974 after Brazil‘s 4-1 win over South Korea in the round of 16. Footage circulating on social media showed him then reacting to comments by a man holding a camera.

The former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward was initially held back by people in his entourage then got clear and appeared to aim a kick at the man, who fell backward to the ground.

Later on Tuesday, Eto’o released a statement on Twitter and said: “On last Dec. 5, after the Brazil-South Korea match, I had a violent altercation with a person who was probably an Algerian supporter.

“I would like to apologise for losing my temper and reacting in a way that does not match my personality. I apologise to the public for this unfortunate incident.

“I pledge to continue to resist the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters. Indeed, since the Cameroon-Algeria match on March 29 in Blida, I have been the target of insults and allegations of cheating without any evidence.

“During this World Cup, Cameroonian fans have been harassed and pestered by Algerians on the same subject. I would like to mention that the scenario of Algeria’s defeat was cruel but perfectly in line with the rules and ethics of our sport.

“All the appeals made by the Algerian Football Federation to the competent Jurisdictions have been rejected. I therefore call on the Algerian authorities and Federation to take their responsibilities to put an end to this unhealthy climate before a more serious tragedy occurs.

“To Fennecs’ fans, I wish that they find peace and manage to overcome the disappointment of a painful defeat, now behind us.”

The man, Algerian social media personality Said Mamouni, later published a video on YouTube saying he was the person who was attacked, and that he was at a Qatari police station to file a complaint against Eto’o.

“Samuel had a fight with me. He hit me, and the one accompanying him pushed me. I’m here to lodge a complaint and he also smashed my camera,” Mamouni said.

He said that Eto’o became violent after Mamouni asked him whether he had bribed Gambian referee Bakary Gassama in a controversial World Cup qualifier between Cameroon and Algeria in March.

Cameroon won the second leg 2-1 in the final moments of the match and qualified for the World Cup on the away goals rule.

Algeria’s football federation filed a complaint with FIFA, football’s governing body, demanding a replay of the match because of what it deemed were referring errors made by Gassama. FIFA dismissed the complaint.

But Algeria’s grievance also carried over to the Cameroon team’s first official news conference in Qatar, one day before playing Switzerland. An Algerian reporter’s question to Cameroon coach Rigobert Song about having “bought qualification” wasn’t answered.

Eto’o has been in Qatar as president of the football federation of Cameroon, who were eliminated in the group stage last week.

He also represents Qatar’s World Cup organising committee as a Global Legacy Ambassador since 2019 and is part of the FIFA Legends program that uses former players to promote football.

It was unclear in what capacity Eto’o attended the game on Monday night. FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, and its government did not immediately respond to questions about the incident.

Eto’o played at four World Cups for Cameroon between 1998 and 2014, and was elected to lead their football federation one year ago.

ESPN has approached the Cameroon FA for comment.