Samuel Eto’o and the FARE Network Awarded the European Medal of Tolerance
“As players, we need to take a moral stand because we are the people the spectators watch and we have to be a strong example of tolerance in a multi-racial society which I believe football can represent best,” said three-time Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o as he was awarded Monday the Third European Medal of Tolerance by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR). The former Cameroon and Barcelona striker was awarded along with the FARE Network, an anti-discrimination and social inclusion network that counters inequality and exclusion in football,during a gala evening in London.
“Football symbolizes the cooperation of individuals towards one goal, with respect to the opponents, and with respect to the laws and rules of the game. Tolerance is based on competition but also cooperation, on trust, but also rules and regulations,” said ECTR President Moshe Kantor during the presentation. “Samuel is a worthy recipient. Throughout his career he has taken a firm stance against racism bigotry, refusing to hide in the shadows, and as a consequence has raised awareness of racism in football and society,’’ he said.
The award ceremony took place amid a time of rising racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, both in general and more acutely surrounding football. Recent footage showing Chelsea supporters proudly denying a black man the ability to get on a train in Paris and West Ham supporters singing anti-Semitic songs as they travel through Stamford Hill, an area known for a sizeable Jewish community, are recent examples of hate and intolerance by fans. Elsewhere, black players and players of color are regularly taunted in places like Italy, Holland and Spain. On the field, former West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka made the ‘Quenelle’, a reverse Nazi salute made famous by Dieudonne, an anti-Semitic French comedian, and in the boardroom, where Wigan Athletic Chairman Dave Whelan was caught making anti-Semitic comments, demonstrate that racism and anti-Semitism are not just found on the stands.“The last year has been a particularly challenging one for football in terms of hate and racism,” Eto’o said.