Samoa's Sapolu in rugby quit threat

Sun, 16 Oct 2011 00:00
Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu has reportedly threatened to quit rugby after receiving a six-month suspended ban for accusing referee Nigel Owens of racism and bias following his team's World Cup exit.

Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu has reportedly threatened to quit rugby after receiving a six-month suspended ban for accusing referee Nigel Owens of racism and bias following his team's World Cup exit.

Fuimaono Sapolu made a number of controversial Twitter posts during the tournament including one following a 13-5 defeat by defending champions South Africa in which he slammed the performance of Owens, whose Facebook page was littered with abusive comments after the match.

"I can understand the hate!! Haha good luck u racist biased prick," tweeted the 30-year-old Fuimaono Sapolu. "Get s.a (South Africa) into next round. The plan was obvious. Can't wait 2 meet irb (International Rugby Board) members in public."

A reconvened disciplinary hearing on Saturday, which earlier this month provisionally banned Fuimaono Sapolu from all rugby, dismissed the player's accusations against Welsh official Owens.

It said the midfielder would have his six-month ban, which is suspended for two years, activated unless he offered a "full and unconditional apology to Nigel Owens and unconditional retraction of any criticism of him".

He was also ordered to attend a minimum of 100 hours rugby community work in Samoa within the next 12 months and pass a recognised referee course within the next three months.

But Fuimaono Sapolu, who plays for English club side Gloucester, told New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times: "I don't want to play rugby any more.

"It is the most beautiful sport in the world... For me it's a beautiful sport that unfortunately has so many issues to be sorted out for it to be truly a democratic sport. I don't feel like playing rugby anymore."

Independent judicial officer Jeff Blackett of England, who heard Sapolu's case, ruled the comments about Owens "impugn his integrity and reputation both as a referee and as a man".

And Blackett, who labelled the player's behaviour towards Owens "offensive", insisted there was "absolutely no evidence the referee was biased in the sense that he deliberately favoured one side or the other".

"To suggest that Nigel Owens is racist against Samoans is also completely inappropriate," Blackett added.

Earlier in the tournament, after Samoa's defeat by Wales, Fuimaono Sapolu, who plays for English Premiership side Gloucester, took to Twitter to accuse World Cup organisers of "slavery" and a "holocaust" for the way teams such as his had to play twice in four days while the Welsh had a week off between matches.

He also slammed the IRB for a lack of a minute's silence when Samoa played on the anniversary of its devastating 2009 tsunami while one was afforded to the United States when the Eagles played on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

"Minute of silence for USA for 9-11. Nothing for Samoa for tsunami. Both games played on anniversary days," he tweeted. "Our dead not good enough?"

AFP

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