Fuimaono-Sapolu not backing down
October 4, 2011
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is standing by his controversial attacks on the IRB and Nigel Owens © Getty Images
Samoa's Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is standing by the controversial comments he has made on the International Rugby Board (IRB) and referee Nigel Owens in recent weeks.
Enraged by his country having to play Wales in a crucial Rugby World Cup D clash just four days after having been in action against Namibia while their opponents had the benefit of seven days' rest, Fuimaono-Sapolu took to Twitter following defeat by Warren Gatland's men to compare the IRB's treatment of Samoa to "slavery, the holocaust and apartheid".
The Gloucester centre subsequently apologised for his outburst after being the subject of an IRB enquiry. However, he launched another online tirade after Friday's defeat by South Africa, this time against Owens, who sent off Samoa fullback Paul Williams during the game in North Shore City. Fuimaono-Sapolu called the Welsh official's integrity and impartiality into question, labelling him "biased" and "racist".
The player was summoned to appear before an IRB disciplinary panel in Auckland on Tuesday to explain his latest comments but he failed to show, telling New Zealand TV's Campbell Live: "I've only recently found out that there was a hearing. I did not know when the hearing was going to be. I had absolutely no idea."
However, when asked if he would have attended had known of the scheduled hearing, he would only answer, "Perhaps", arguing that he would not have been guaranteed a fair trial.
"They don't really have most people's trust at the moment, and then you look at a lot of the calls that have been made throughout this World Cup, a lot of injustice has been dealt by the IRB," the qualified solicitor said. "So I would struggle to trust that they would come up with a just decision on me."
Fuimaono-Sapolu also stood by his attack on Owens, claiming that referees approach games involving Samoa with preconceived ideas about the way they play the game.
"We always get bad referees, we always get the stereotype that we don't know how to play rugby, the stereotype that we're thugs, we're violent, we're stupid - we always get that," he said.
"Now we had a lot of bad calls in that game, not just one, we had a lot of bad calls in that game. And I said he's biased, there's an apparent conflict of interest," he added, alluding to the fact that Owens' Wales were in competition with Samoa for a place in the knockout stages.
Fuimaono-Sapolu also revealed that so passionate is he about the issues he has brought up that he is unconcerned by the prospect of seeing his career cut short by suspension.
"Should that happen, then it happens," he said. "But the whole idea is that we don't treat the next generation to treat another person like sh*t."
Fuimaono-Sapolu's mention of the Holocaust in his tweets was seen as particularly inflammatory and ill-advised but he argued: "When you get apartheid, when you get the Holocaust, when you get slavery, you have a group of people treating another group of people like crap, a group of people thinking they're more superior and they can do whatever they want to another group of people.
"Now obviously in this instance there wasn't a culling of six million Samoans or six million Jews - sorry, six million rugby players - but essentially the root of that evil was 'I am allowed to treat this person like sh*t.' So there's a parallel there, albeit a very small one."
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