An Italian rugby player from Guinea, who received a rotten banana as part of his Secret Santa gift, says he is sorry but insists that “Forgiveness… does not mean forgetting”.
Cherif Traore (28), shared his feelings on social media. He said he was “hurt” at the “offensive” gesture of an anonymous colleague at his Italianclub side. The prop was used to mock “racist jokes”.
“Seeing my friends laughing was what hurt me the most.” He wrote in an Instagram post, “As if everything was normal.”
The Treviso-based club that plays in the United rugbyChampionship released a statement condemning racism after the post was posted.
All Benetton players were summoned to the training grounds on Wednesday afternoon. They apologised for the incident and were addressed directly by Amerino Zatta, club president.
Traore now says he accepts the club’s apology in a new posting.
He said, “Christmas is kindness. Christmas is gratitude. Christmas is forgiveness.” These words are what I have been repeating throughout my year, and I intend to live by them.
“I am grateful to my club, my teammates and all those who have shown me kindness.
“And I want forgive, which is something I admit to, does not mean forgetting anything, or being passive about what happened.
“But I want a lick of my wounds and to carry on with my head high without any weight on my heart.”
Traore stated that the meeting with Zatta, the players and Traore was “an opportunity for us to discuss and understand why one of our team-mates exchanged Christmas presents”.
“I accept and appreciate his apology, as well as that of the whole team. I was happy with the gesture, and I know that the group will be stronger because of what happened.”
Traore first described the incident in a social media post, which was later deleted and republished.
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He wrote, “Christmas is coming, and as traditionally in the team it’s secret Santa time. It’s a fun, friendly moment. You can give anonymous gifts to your friends, even ironic, if you have the means.
“When it was mine turn, I discovered a banana in my present. A banana that was rotten, in a bag of water.
“It’s a routine for me, or, better yet, it’s something I have to get used too. I’ve learned to put a smile on bad jokes and make good faces whenever I hear them. This helps me to not hate people around my house. This was different.
Traore, a seven-year old from West Africa, emigrated to Italy as an immigrant and won 16 Italy caps. He also said that outside of Italy, “a gesture such as this is strongly condemned, even in small instances.”
Zatta stated last night that he was “happy” Traore accepted his apology.
He stated that he was certain that the gesture would increase the sense of cohesion in the group, and that it will not happen again in the family.
A new statement was also issued by the club, which stated that it “condemned any expression of racism or form of discrimination with the utmost firmness”.
They are not part our culture, and they do not reflect our identity or our values. It has been proven with actions, not words, and we will continue our strong support for it,” the statement said.