Thursday 18 July 2019

'I knew I was in for a rough time from the crowd' - Simon Zebo opens up on alleged racist abuse at Ulster match

Simon Zebo. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Simon Zebo has opened up on the alleged racist abuse he suffered while playing against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last weekend, saying that he made the incident public because he wanted to set an example for his children.

The former Munster star returned to play on Irish soil in the Champions Cup last Saturday, with his Racing 92 side going down narrowly to Ulster in a cracking encounter.

However, the exciting game was marred by the allegations that Zebo was racially abused by a member of the crowd during the game. The back alluded to the abuse on social media, while Racing 92 subsequently released a strongly-worded statement condemning the 'racial insults'.

Speaking in an interview with Jim Hamilton on Rugby Pass, Zebo said that he was expecting a bit of verbals from the crowd, but was taken aback by the comments from one fan.

"I knew I was in for a rough time from the crowd when I was going back to play," Zebo said.

"It was all good-natured and what have you, it was going in one ear and out the other for 90% of the game and I think somebody just got a little bit carried away and there was a lot of noise going on, that’s why it will probably be difficult to find. But it was like (clicks fingers) someone just came up and whispered in my ear, you know some things that click and stick with you. So it was pretty clear to me what was said, which was disappointing, that I was coming back to play in my own country again."

Zebo said that the person who allegedly said the racist abuse was an 'elderly man'.

"It was something that happened to me quite a bit when I was younger, you know you’re dealing with other kids or children or teenagers, who don’t have the intellect or education at the time to understand how things like that can hurt a person. So it was even more disappointing that I went home and it was an elderly man, 40-plus, so that’s why it just annoyed me a bit. But it is water off a ducks back now for me, I’d be quite bullet-proof in terms of that.

"But I think if I was just to saying nothing and accept it, then I wouldn’t be putting up much of a fight for myself and I don’t want to come across as a weak character like that for my kids, you know, I stand up for something if I think I believe in it."

Zebo added that Ulster CEO Jonny Petrie has been in touch with him regarding the incident and that he has given an account of what happened to the EPCR, who are investigating the incident.

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