Emmanuel Eboue has told RMC he cannot believe the Turkish FA might punish him and Galatasaray teammate Didier Drogba for paying tribute to Nelson Mandela.
The pair both wore T-shirts under their club jerseys that bore messages for the late former South African president during last Friday's league win over Elazigspor. Drogba's read, 'Thank you Madiba' while Eboue's simply stated, 'Rest in peace Nelson Mandela', and the former Arsenal defender feels the Turkish FA are being heavy-handed in their decision to haul the duo in front of their disciplinary panel.
"Honestly, it really hurts. Nelson Mandela is someone who did a lot for Africa, but also Europe. He did a lot of good. Didier and I simply wanted to pay tribute to him, and also to his family and the South African people," the Ivory Coast international said.
"People have misinterpreted that, but I don't think what we did was bad. Coming to the stadium today, I saw the supporters had put up a photo of 'Madiba'. That pleases me, because I don't understand how people can think what we did was bad. Why are the Turkish federation upset? We're footballers, we don't do politics.
"I never would have thought they would call us to appear before them. If I had known that it might cost me dear, I perhaps wouldn't have done it. But I'm proud to have done it."
On the Twitter account of his foundation, Drogba tweeted to his 155,000 followers:
http://t.co/nP9Uj49Svu I'd be very interested to see your comments on this...but I'm sorry if I had to I would do it again and again.— Drogba Foundation (@FondationDrogba) December 9, 2013
Footballers are banned from bearing political messages on clothing during games, but given the scale of the support for the pair, the Turkish FA may well back down. Even Turkey's Sports Minister, Suat Kilic, has backed them, telling his country's media earlier this week: "I don't think it's a good decision, be it for Turkey's image or the freedom of expression of these two players."