A Guinea-born Italian rugby star who was given a rotten banana in his club’s Secret Santa says he has accepted an apology – but insisted: “Forgiveness… doesn’t mean forgetting”.
Cherif Traore, 28, shared on social media that he had been “hurt” by the “offensive” gesture made by an anonymous colleague at his Italian club side, Benetton – as the prop hit out at “racist jokes”.
“What hurt me most was seeing most of my mates present laughing. As if everything is normal,” he added in an Instagram post.
Following the post, the Treviso-based club, which plays in the United Rugby Championship, released a statement condemning racism.
All Benetton players were also summoned to the training ground on Wednesday afternoon where they apologised to the prop and were addressed by club president Amerino Zatta.
Now, in a new post, Traore said he has accepted the club’s apology.
He said: “Christmas is kindness, Christmas is gratitude, Christmas is forgiveness… I speak these words over my life this year and I want to put them into practice.
“I’m grateful for my club, my team and everyone who showed me closeness.
“And I want to forgive, which I admit, doesn’t mean forgetting something, being passive about it when it happened.
“But I want to lick my wounds and carry on with my head up high with no weight on my heart.”
In a separate statement following the meeting with Zatta and the players, Traore wrote it was “an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my team-mates did when exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing else”.
“I appreciate and accept his apology and that of the entire team. I’m happy with the gesture and I’m sure what happened will make the group even more solid.”
Traore initially detailed the incident in a previous social media post that was subsequently deleted and then republished.
Brentford player Rico Henry says racism against mum at Everton’s Goodison Park ‘ brought fire to my stomach’
Anti-racism campaign is part of football’s top level, but has barely reached the grassroots game
He wrote: “Christmas is coming and as traditionally in a team it’s Secret Santa time. A friendly and playful moment. A moment where you can afford to give anonymous gifts to your mates, even stingy, ironic ones.
“When it was my turn, I found a banana inside my present. A rotten banana, inside a bag of moisture.
“I’m used to it, or better, I’ve had to get used to it, having to make a good face on a bad game whenever I hear racist jokes in order to try not to hate the people close to me. (This) was different though.”
Traore, who emigrated to Italy from west Africa as a seven-year-old and has won 16 Italy caps, added that outside Italy “a gesture like this is severely condemned even in small instances”.
Last night, Zatta said he was “happy” that Traore had accepted the apology.
He said: “I am sure that this will strengthen the sense of cohesion within the group and that such a gesture will never happen again in our family.”
The club also issued a new statement, in which it “condemned with the utmost firmness any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination”.
“They are not part of our culture and do not represent our identity and our values. We have always proved it with deeds, not just with words, and we will continue to strongly support it,” the statement read.