Gus Mafuta reflects on racism controversy at Hartlepool United
A disgusted Gus Maftua was deeply affected by Saturday’s events at Victoria Park as he recounted what happened in an emotionally charged interview.
The 24-year-old midfielder was at the forefront of the controversial incident that took place following Inih Effiong’s opening goal for Dover Athletic.
Effiong celebrated his goal from the penalty spot in front of the Town End before being subject to alleged racist abuse and having a food item hurled in his direction.
It became clear that something quite serious had happened by the reactions of not only the Dover players, but Mafuta and his Pools teammates who took visible offence as to what had taken place in the crowd.
An eight minute stoppage in play followed where both teams contemplated making a stand and walking off the pitch.
“It’s wrong, I think you can tell from my reaction at the time,” Mafuta said.
“It wasn’t abuse directed towards me but it kind of was, if you understand what I’m saying.
“I am black, Inih Effiong is black and he is getting called a black so and so, and having gestures made towards him. If you’re attacking him then you’re basically attacking me, and it’s just not right.
“I don’t think there are any words to be honest. It’s the worst I have seen and the worst game of football I have experienced since I started playing the game.
“Everything about the whole day was wrong. The result didn’t matter to me after what had happened in the first half.
“Even if we had gone on to win the game, I would still say that the result was secondary to what happened on Saturday and there’s just no place for it.”
Mafuta arrived from Salford City in the summer and had quickly developed into something of a fan favourite with his impressively industrious displays in midfield.
But Saturday’s events hit the England C international hard as it did everyone connected with Hartlepool United.
“It affected me deeply and for the rest of the day and rest if my weekend,” Mafuta added.
“Obviously, after the game I spoke to my mam and dad, and I spoke to my girlfriend and sort of had to explain to them what had happened in full detail.
“It was one of those moments where I couldn’t believe the words that I was saying to them in 2019. I have had to explain to my parents that the opposition players were racially abused by a small minority of home fans right in front of my eyes. It was hard to watch and it was hard to take.”
Events on Saturday also prompted an ongoing police investigation with a 43-year-old man being arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order and released under investigation.
After witnessing the events first-hand, Mafuta gave his account of what took place.
“Obviously, this incident happened in front of me, I saw it and went over to tell the guy to leave the stadium,” he commented.
“It was more than one person and I don’t think a lot of people know the full events and there are those making plenty of comments without knowing the full story.
“There was all sorts of rubbish being spouted in the newspapers about me trying to jump over the barriers into the fans, which didn’t happen.
“I know for a fact that it’s unfair to blame the other 3000-plus fans who were there on the day but you just can’t believe it can happen and I think it’s more a problem with society.
“Football has to try and sort it out but the punishments that are dished out are not good enough, if I am being totally honest.
“I think the chairman [Raj Singh] and Mark Maguire can only do what they can do and the police can only do what they can do.”
Pools have responded strongly to what took place on Saturday with the ‘Love Pools, Hate Racism’ demonstration taking place before and during Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw against Chesterfield.
“The reaction from the club has been good and I’m thankful for that, ” he said in the club’s matchday programme.
“I have spoken to the chairman already and he’s told me that he is going to do everything in his power to catch those responsible and ensure they are given the maximum punishment.
“But I don’t think you can do much to comfort in the aftermath of what happened on the day. It’s still fresh in my mind now.”
And what really struck an emotional chord for Mafuta was a simple but poignant message sent to one of his teammates.
“The worst thing to come out of the weekend was the message Peter Kioso got from a guy who told him that he’d taken his six-year-old son to the game and he had been asking his dad what had happened,” he continued.
“How do you explain that to a six-year-old? One day I would like to have kids of my own. What if they had seen me reacting in the way I was reacting because they would have wanted to ask questions? What would I say to explain that?
“It’s disgusting really and it’s not a nice feeling. It makes you feel small and lot of other things, it’s ignorant and it’s a problem that society has.”