The former Cameroon and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o has apologised for what he described as a “violent altercation” at the World Cup on Monday night. A video on social media shows the 41-year-old striking a man to the ground with his right knee outside Stadium 974 in Doha.
In a statement, Eto’o, the president of his country’s football federation, said he was provoked by a fan who was “probably” an Algeria supporter as part of a campaign of harassment after Cameroon’s qualifying win against Algeria in March.
“After the Brazil-South Korea match, I had a violent altercation with a person who was probably an Algerian supporter,” Eto’o wrote on social media. “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.”
The video initially shows Eto’o posing for pictures with fans outside the stadium, which staged the last-16 match between Brazil and South Korea on Monday. He then reacts to comments by a man holding a camera. Eto’o was initially held back by people in his entourage but he then got clear and kneed the man, who fell backwards to the ground.
The man, the Algerian social media personality Saïd Mamouni, 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.
He said that Eto’o became violent after Mamouni asked him whether he had bribed the Gambian referee Bakary Gassama in the controversial World Cup qualifier between Cameroon and Algeria in March. Cameroon won the second leg 2-1 in the final moments and qualified for the World Cup on away goals.
Algeria’s football federation filed a complaint with Fifa demanding a replay because of what it deemed refereeing errors by Gassama. Fifa dismissed the complaint.
Algeria’s grievance carried over to the Cameroon team’s first news conference in Qatar, one day before playing Switzerland. An Algerian reporter’s question to Cameroon’s coach, Rigobert Song, about having “bought qualification” was not answered.
Eto’o said in his statement: “I pledge to continue to resist the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters. Indeed, since the Cameroon-Algeria match on 29 March 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.”
Eto’o has been a global ambassador for Qatar’s World Cup organising committee since 2019.