Simon Zebo has laughed off the suggestion that he was guilty of ageism when describing the supporter who had racially abused him at Kingspan Stadium earlier this month as an ‘elderly’ man in his forties.
That accusation was levelled at the Racing 92 player by Northern Ireland Assembly member Mike Nesbitt on Twitter after Zebo’s response to the incident which occurred during the French team’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Ulster in Belfast.
The supporter in question has since been identified and handed a lifetime ban by Ulster Rugby and, Nesbitt, a former Ulster Unionist Party leader, has been pilloried for his bizarre take on the whole unsavoury incident.
“I wouldn’t take too much notice of what that fella said,” said a laughing Zebo on Monday. “He got enough backlash off of that, so there’s no need for me to stick it to him anymore. Sometimes you just have to think before you… I didn’t mean any harm by what I was trying to say.
“I was trying to describe something that was an emotional topic, so if I didn’t convey my words the correct way I didn’t think it would be picked up in such a cynical manner. Each to their own and he’s old enough to take the consequences of that.”
No pun intended, of course.
Zebo, quite rightly, added that it was “silly” to equate his and the supporter’s utterances. “They’re worlds apart,” he said. Nesbitt’s input has, thankfully, failed to distract from the nub of the issue which is the astonishing ignorance displayed by one member of the crowd that day.
Though a profoundly negative and disgusting episode, Zebo has handled the whole thing with an admirable grace and deftness of touch and he was again complimentary of how swiftly Ulster had dealt with the person in question.
Yeah, it was great. Fair play to Ulster and their CEO, they were very, very positive and forthcoming in trying to help as much as they could. It was a pretty shitty thing to happen but that’s life. Those things do happen. Ulster were very good.
“The EPCR were very good and everyone at Racing was class. It’s good to be able to put it behind me knowing that there was a positive outcome, your man getting banned for life, has happened off the back of it. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”
Zebo, in Dublin on Monday in his role as a Paddy Power ambassador, has some rare down time right now as the Top 14 goes into hibernation for a couple of weeks and the Six Nations moves into view. A week in Dubai awaits after a few days in Ireland with his family.
He is enjoying his time in Paris but the price paid is the loss of his Ireland career. This will be his second experience of sitting out the Six Nations and he isn’t paying much heed to any loose talk of a possible recall should Ireland be in need of reinforcements.
“I don’t take too much notice of it. It is what it is. I’m not getting a look in at the moment so that’s understandable. (There were) special cases or whatever for Johnny (Sexton) and Tommy (Bowe) and for these people who have played abroad in the past.
“If they’re trying to do a certain thing with rugby in Ireland and they want players to be playing here, I understand that. My World Cup hopes wouldn’t be too high but hopefully, if I keep playing well and, touch wood there isn’t, but if there are a couple of injuries then I might get a look in.”