Privat Mbarga

Privat Mbarga: "When people call me a monkey, it takes away the joy of being a footballer"

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Privat Mbarga

Bali United player Privat Mbarga had two meetings with football fans who abused him on social media. The Cameroonian winger, who was the victim of vile racist insults online, says education is paramount to convincing people they cannot abuse others.

By Privat Mbarga

I like playing in Indonesia. I have been playing at Bali United since January 2022. I like the challenge. Every team works hard, fighting to win three points.

In March 2024, we played against Persija and I was aware that my opponent likes tough challenges. I went into the penalty box and I knew that if I touched the ball before him, that he would step on my feet, that I would fall and get a penalty. And that’s exactly what happened.

Afterwards, I received a lot of racist comments on my Instagram and TikTok pages. Some people called me negro, dog or monkey. I got hundreds of racist messages. I usually delete these messages, but this time I saved a couple. One person posted monkey emojis and another said that he was going to kill me.  

They cannot call me monkey, and they cannot threaten to kill me.

Unfortunately, too many fans in Indonesia either shout racist remarks in the stadium or post them on social media. I think it is due to a lack of education. Maybe they don't know that much about life or haven't been in many other countries. Maybe they think they can just say words like that and get away with it.  

My team-mate and friend, Ramdani Lestaluhu, who is a board member of the Indonesian professional footballers association (APPI), said that the union could help me. He said that we needed to fight racism in Indonesia because this was not only about me – too many African players receive racist abuse. We contacted APPI as we wanted to change the situation.

I like the approach by the union to have conversations with these people, to give them the opportunity to apologise. I can talk to these people and explain to them not to make racist remarks again. I want them to learn, to understand that it is not good to say these words.   

The first meeting was in Jakarta when we were playing an away game there. The person was very scared. When I shook his hand, he was trembling. I was there with a delegation of the union, including Ramdani. We assured the fan that we were not going to call the police, but that we wanted him to apologise and never say these things again.

Education is a good thing. In the meetings, they have said: “Privat, sorry that I said this”. For me, that was not enough – they also had to promise me they would never say it again, to prevent that other people or other kids say it too.

It is not good for football and we also cannot accept it in life. You cannot judge people by the colour of their skin. We are all the same.

I asked them a couple of questions: Will you die one day? They replied yes. I said that I will die too. If you cut your hand, is your blood red or blue? Red, they answered. Mine too, I said.

You see, we are the same. Only the colour of our skin is a bit different. So don’t call me black, negro, or monkey. And you cannot say that you will kill me. They got the message. I think they will never do it again. But if they do, then they cannot apologise anymore.

APPI 1 SM Abuse
Privat Mbarga in Jakarta with APPI representatives and the person who abused him online
APPI 2 SM Abuse
Privat Mbarga in Jakarta with APPI representatives and the person who abused him online
APPI 4 SM Abuse
Privat Mbarga after meeting with the person who abused him online
APPI 5 SM Abuse
The fan who abused Privat Mbarga writes a letter of apology after their meeting in Bali

Unfortunately, just before the second meeting, another person posted a photo of a monkey on my Instagram page. I asked the union to report that person to the police because I cannot keep on having conversations with them; I need to concentrate on my playing career too.

When people call me a monkey, it takes away the joy of being a professional footballer. A monkey is an animal. People are telling me that I am not a person, but an animal. That, of course, makes me feel bad.  

In Spain three fans were recently sentenced to prison terms for racially abusing Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. It is a good decision, because what they did is not okay. But I am not in favour of putting people in prison. I believe in God and I don't want people to have a bad life. 

I need to help them and educate them. Maybe they also have a family, might not have a good job and need to find a way to look after their family. If someone goes to prison, can their family survive without them? The wife of the first person that I spoke with was pregnant. If he had to go to jail, how could they handle it? It was good for him to apologise and to say that he would never do it again. That shows the power of education. 

Sometimes there is a lack of respect and I want that to change, but going forward I will not do any more of these conversations. If these people don't want to change, we will have to do other things to make it happen, such as going to the police.