Racing 92 fullback Simon Zebo has elaborated on the racist abuse he received at Ravenhill last weekend in an exclusive interview with RugbyPass.
The former Munster player tweeted in the aftermath of the game between Racing and Ulster: “I hope my ears deceived me with some comments directed my way from the crowd. #NotOn Django wins in the end.”
Last Sunday Ulster also released a statement saying “Ulster Rugby condemns all forms of abuse and will work with the relevant parties to robustly investigate any complaints received.”
Zebo told RugbyPass’s Jim Hamilton that he was sure of what he heard.
“I knew I was in for a rough time from the crowd when I was going back to play.”
“An Irish player going back to play against another Irish team. Me scoring a try the last day against Ulster and not being shy about celebrating. The type of character I am, I am not an introverted type of person. I am not afraid to express myself, play with a smile on my face. Not everybody enjoys that or wants that to be the rugby-way. I was in for a tough time, got a good bit of stick from the crowd, which was quite entertaining for the most part from minute one to minute 40 when I came off.
“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, it’s like someone saying ‘Hey Jim’, 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.
“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.”
“Yeah the CEO of Ulster has been very, very good and very forthcoming in trying to help as much as possible, but I have just sent off my account of things to the EPCR. They’re going to investigate it as far as they can, but it is quite difficult in a full stadium if things like that happen. There have been a couple of people who have written to me privately on social media and things like that saying they heard the abuse and they’ve heard things being said.
“But at the same time you have to find a person, it’s quite tough. So I am happy that the investigation is going on or whatever, they are doing as much as they possibly can and a lot of players have come out and messaged me and text me and called me and been very supportive because it’s not really a nice thing. But yeah I’ve felt a lot of support and I can just forget about it now, I don’t want to give that negative energy too much attention.”
RugbyPass contacted the EPCR this week who said there had been no change in the situation since they released a statement on Sunday which stated: “EPCR has not received a formal complaint from Racing 92 regarding any alleged case of verbal abuse of one of the club’s players during yesterday’s Heineken Champions Cup, Pool 4 match at the Kingspan Stadium.
“EPCR is in contact with both Ulster Rugby and Racing 92, and will be making no further comment at this point.”
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.