Jean-Paul Ndjoli, 21-year-old Franco-Congolese, plays this season with the reserve of Hércules of Alicante, in the fifth Spanish division. On March 6, during a match against Torrent, the former Évreux striker was insulted in the most atrocious way by an opposing defender. After deciding to inform the referee, his coach and his teammates, Ndjoli was met with almost general indifference. He returns to this scandalous episode.
I was playing with my Hércules team from Alicante in the suburbs of Valencia, in Torrent. At the start, it happens like in every football match: it hits in the duels, it responds. After a while, I start to take over. This is where the mood changes. ” Dirty Bastard ” , “son of a bitch” , insults that are already unacceptable, but that we are used to hearing on the pitch. Except that after a few actions, he (Angel Cano, Editor’s note) begins to approach me and he says to me: “Stop playing like that, dirty black, dirty black shit” … At that time, I go to the referee and tell him what I heard. He replies that he did not hear, and that he will be careful. And there, I think it completely twisted in the head of the opponent. All of a sudden he started throwing things at me like “blacks like you, here, we kill them” , “I would dream of planting your sister like the black slaves at the time” … So I go back to the referee and my coach, and I tell them that I’m not going to continue to accept this, that they have to do something, or else I stop.
What was the reaction of your coach and your teammates?
They tried to reason with me, to tell me that he was just trying to get into my head to get me out of my game, that I shouldn’t let him. So I continued. But since he wouldn’t stop, I got fed up and decided to go out. This time, my coach understood, he didn’t keep me on the pitch and he replaced me.
When you left, what was going on in your head?
Inevitably, I had a big fit of anger (which will earn him a yellow card, currently maintained by the Federation, because the referee made no reference in his match report to insults, Ed). I had tears in my eyes I was so upset. I found it deeply unfair that no one reacted. When I realized that no one would do anything because no one could understand me, I said to myself that it was useless for me to get angry on my own like an idiot, that it wouldn’t change anything. I told myself that their way of thinking was not human. It’s sad to see such things in our time. It is deplorable.
“The biggest support I received after the match came from the striker of the opposite team. He was black like me and he spoke French. »
Were you disappointed by the reaction of your club?
Already, I thank my club for having published a press release. But beyond that, it’s true that I would have liked more support at the time, that the club went in the direction of my decision. Wanting to try to understand me is one thing, but I would have liked the club to go further. It would have done me a lot of good, it would have been a real movement of solidarity. Let it be automatic, in fact: bam, he’s my teammate, mate, call him what you want, that happens to him, so I get on his side and leave the field.
El pasado end of week the club suffered a lamentable offense of signo xenófobo in the persona of a jugador del #HerculesB. Desde el Hércules CF condenamos firmly estos behaviors y lanzamos un mensaje contre el racismo en el fútbol.#NoAlRacismo pic.twitter.com/BTVG2l56FP
— Hercules CF Oficial (@cfhercules) March 8, 2022
How have your teammates behaved towards you since this match?
They support me, especially since I started talking about it. Before that, not necessarily. Maybe they thought I wasn’t going to say anything and let it go. But when it came out, I told my brother who relayed the case (on Instagram, editor’s note), and that they understood, they gave me their support. Before I decided to talk, we didn’t talk about it at all. The next day, we had practice, and I was still pissed off because it deeply affected me that no one was doing anything. I went alone to the weight room, the guys passed by and quickly patted me on the shoulder: “Jean-Paul, how are you? » But there was no speech or nothing. The biggest support I received after the game, it came from the attacker of the opposite team (Cameroonian Steve Ekedi, editor’s note). He was black like me and he spoke French. He came to see me in the locker room, when I was still alone. He told me that he had been here since he was sixteen, and that there were areas in Spain where people were still very racist, that the person who had insulted me was not a very popular at the club. He also told me that he supported me and that I had been right to refuse to play.
The sad story of a young Franco-Congolese, brother of a famous person in fashion, who plays Hercules in Segunda B. Racist insults, 0 general reaction and a response from the adversary to vomit. I leave you the screens of the story of the brother of Jean-Paul Ndjoli. pic.twitter.com/RjO8qrPLM8
— Pol B. (@Polprins) March 7, 2022
How do you move on after a moment like this?
It’s still very hard, also because it had never happened to me in such a brutal way. I had never been insulted like that before. I’m very religious, so I tell myself that if this happened to me, it must have happened, and that the person who did it must surely be denounced. It can take away a little motivation from me, it can also make me wonder about my desire to continue playing in Spain. But I have goals, I won’t let anyone stop me from achieving them, and I can never be disgusted with football.
Interview by Paul Citron