Samuel Eto'o has apologised for kneeing an Algeria fan in the face, but launched a fresh attack on the nation's support by blaming "relentless provocation" over unfounded bribery claims.
In shocking scenes videoed in Doha on Monday night, the African football great and "legacy ambassador" for Qatar is seen erupting with rage and kicking out at Said Mamouni, a YouTube vlogger. Mamouni, who has made a complaint to police in Doha, confirmed on his own social media channels that he had asked Eto'o if he had bribed a referee.
"He hit me because I asked him about Gassama," Mamouni says, in a reference to Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama, who oversaw a controversial qualifier in which Cameroon qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Algeria.
The Algerian federation claimed the refereeing of the second leg by Gassama in March was "scandalous", but the Fifa referees' committee rejected that view.
Qatar's Supreme Committee has yet to clarify what police action Eto'o may now face, but the former Inter Milan and Chelsea striker later tweeted "my sincere apologies".
"I would like to apologise for losing my temper and reacting in a way that does not match my personality," Eto'o wrote. "I apologise to the public for this unfortunate incident. I pledge to continue to resist the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters."
The confrontation took place as Eto'o left Brazil's 4-1 last-16 win against South Korea. Footage shows him reacting angrily to being persistently filmed. Mamouni posted his own video from a Doha police station saying Eto'o had hit him in the chest, chin and jaw.
Showing viewers his own smashed camera, Mamouni, who uses the name "Sadouni" online, said his questioning about a potential refereeing bribe prompted Eto'o's attack. Mamouni later adds: "He does not have the right to raise his hand against anyone.
"He hit me, and I have a video that he is forbidden to publish even after an investigation," the vlogger wrote. "We are making a video on it, and we hope to publish it so that we can reach my right."
Eto'o, who is the top footballing administrator in Cameroon, has claimed to "have been the target of insults and allegations of cheating without any evidence" since the match in March.
"During this World Cup, Cameroonian fans have been harassed and pestered by Algerians on the same subject," he added. Algeria's defeat "was cruel", he said, but "perfectly in line with the rules and ethics of our support".
"All the appeals made by the Algerian Football Federation to the competent jurisdictions have been rejected," Eto'o added. "I therefore call on the Algerian authorities and Federation to take their responsibilities to put an end to this unhealthy climate before a more serious tragedy occurs."
— La Opinión (@LaOpinionLA) December 6, 2022
Eto'o has been a regular face at the World Cup thanks to his role with Qatar as well as with his home nation Cameroon's governing body.
A video of his clash with Mamouni was first published by American, Spanish-language outlet La Opinion. Footage appears to show Mamouni fall back after being hit in the face.
The all-time record Cameroon goalscorer had been taking pictures with fans as he left the stadium following Brazil's landslide last-16 victory. However, having appeared to take exception with Mamouni's comments, Eto'o attempted to confront him.
One of Eto'o's entourage then tried to confiscate the camera from the man, who slipped on to his knees after his equipment was thrown on to the ground. The video then shows Eto'o giving his mobile phone to a friend and charging towards the man, using his right knee to strike towards his face.
According to the report, Eto'o was asked what had happened by journalists but did not immediately explain what had caused the confrontation.
Eto'o won 118 caps for his country, the second-most of any player in Cameroon's history behind Rigobert Song, and scored a record 56 times for the national team. He appeared at four World Cups between 1998 and 2014, becoming only the third African player to play in four global tournaments after Song and fellow Cameroonian Jacques Songo'o.