DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Cameroon Football Federation president and former star player Samuel Eto’o apologized for kicking a man to the ground in what he called a “violent altercation” outside of a World Cup Stadium early Tuesday.
Eto’o had stopped near Stadium 974 to pose for photos with fans after Brazil beat South Korea 4-1. Footage circulating on social media showed him responding to comments from a man holding a camera.
The former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker was initially held back by people in his entourage but then got by and appeared to aim a kick at the man who fell backwards to the ground.
“I had a violent altercation with a person who was probably an Algerian supporter,” Eto’o wrote in statements released in French and English on his Twitter accountciting a month-long campaign by that country’s fans against Cameroon since their World Cup playoff in March.
“I want to apologize for losing my temper and reacting in a way that doesn’t reflect my personality,” said Eto’o, who has served as Qatar’s World Cup Organizing Committee Global Legacy Ambassador since 2019.
The man, Algerian social media personality Said Mamouni, later posted a video on YouTube in which he said he was the person who was attacked and that he was at a Qatari police station to file a complaint against Eto’o to submit.
“Samuel got into an argument with me. He hit me and his companion pushed me. I’m here to file a complaint and he also destroyed my camera,” Mamouni said.
He said Eto’o turned violent after Mamouni asked him if he bribed Gambian referee Bakary Gassama in a controversial World Cup qualifier between Cameroon and Algeria. Cameroon won the second leg 2-1 in the final moments of the game and qualified for the World Cup on away goals.
The Algerian Football Federation filed a complaint with FIFA, the football governing body, demanding a replay of the match over alleged referral errors by Gassama. FIFA dismissed the lawsuit.
But Algeria’s complaint also carried over to the Cameroon team’s first official press conference in Qatar, a day before the game against Switzerland. A question from an Algerian reporter to Cameroon coach Rigobert Song about the “qualification bought” went unanswered.
Eto’o was in Qatar leading the delegation from Cameroon, who were eliminated in the group stage last week.
“I have been the target of insults and allegations of fraud with no evidence,” he wrote on Tuesday. “I promise to continue to stand up to the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters.”
Eto’o is part of the FIFA Legends program, which uses former players to promote football, and it was unclear in what capacity Eto’o attended the game on Monday night.
Qatar World Cup organizers said Eto’o was not their guest at the game.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Cameroonian federation did not immediately respond to phone calls or messages asking for comment.
The Qatar government did not immediately respond to questions about the incident.
Eto’o played for Cameroon at four World Cups between 1998 and 2014 and was elected president of his football association a year ago.
He called on Algerian football officials to “put an end to this unhealthy climate before a more serious tragedy strikes”.
“To the fans of Fennecs,” he said, noting the Algerian team’s nickname, “I wish that they find peace and manage to overcome the disappointment of a painful defeat that is now behind us.”
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