‘We Africans don’t exist’: Ex-Russian Premier League MVP Eto’o blasts Ballon d’Or as he doesn’t join Ronaldo & Messi in Dream Team
Barcelona legend Samuel Eto'o has claimed that "Africans don't exist" after being left out of three "Dream Team" lineups named by the Ballon d'Or, causing a row among fans and experts over the players picked by the awards judges.
Barcelona all-time top scorer, Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo and late Argentina hero Diego Maradona were among the forwards picked in the first of three all-time best teams by the founders of the awards.
Netherlands magician Johan Cruyff and Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho were in the second team, while World Cup winner Thierry Henry and Spain star Andres Iniesta were among the chosen ones in second and third teams that left Eto'o feeling invisible.
"How can [organizers] France Football pick three Ballon D'or teams with not a single African player amongst the 33?" asked Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer with a large social media following who was part of FIFA's Anti-Racism Task Force.
"It’s not credible at all. No Samuel Eto'o, no George Weah, at least?"
Retired two-time Champions League winner Eto'o responded by saying: "We Africans don't exist."
The former Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker's remark caused arguments among his Twitter following of more than 1.5 million.
"You made Africa shine on the world football scene like George Weah, [Jay-Jay] Okocha and many others," said one, tagging ex-Chelsea and Ivory Coast targetman Didier Drogba into their response.
Another joked: "Maybe when they put Pele, they thought he was African. All kidding aside, it's a scandal and you, Samuel, continue to stand up against this discrimination. Only people like you can make things happen."
Amid accusations that Africans had been shown a lack of respect by the announcement, not everyone backed Eto'o. "Please don't say that you are one of the best strikers and player this world has had," replied one, while another argued: "It's not scandalous.
"The best African player is undoubtedly you, Samuel, but you are no better than Ronaldo, Cruyff or [Marco] Van Basten as a striker. Who would take whose place?"
Sports journalist Usher Komugisha named Eto'o as one of nine players she would have included, mockingly suggesting that they might as well have played tennis in the eyes of the Ballon d'Or.
"I’m not sure what the aim of this tweet is," responded one reader. "There are black players in there so it, can’t be to suggest racism?
"[They are] all fabulous players you mentioned, but none would go in those teams ahead of the ones picked."
Now 39, Eto'o brought his glittering career to an official close last year but was linked with a return with Spanish third-tier side Racing Murcia last month.
The Cameroon icon has regularly been recognized as one of the most successful stars ever to have played the game, taking part in ceremonies such as the 2018 World Cup draw, where he posed alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Eto'o finished fifth in the voting for the 2009 Ballon d'Or, which was won by Messi ahead of Ronaldo.
He won the Russian Premier League Most Valuable Player at the end of a prolific two-season spell with Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013, although he suffered incidents of racism earlier in his career, attempting to leave the pitch at Real Zaragoza when he was abused while playing for Barca.