The controversy between Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen and Italian soccer club SSC Napoli hit a high point this week. CBS commentator and French national team legend Thierry Henry called out Napoli’s treatment of Osimhen and considered it “racist” after the club made an insensitive joke on social media out of a recent missed penalty kick by Osimhen.
“It is wrong on every level,” Henry said. “What are we talking about? It is, first and foremost, your own team. This is what you do to your own player?”
“You thought about it, and you say, ‘You know what, I have an idea: let me create a video,'” Henry continued. “Really? This is what you create? Your own player!”
“And yes, it is racist.”
"It's wrong on every level… It's your own team! What are we talking about here?"
Thierry Henry is stunned by Napoli's social media treatment of star striker Victor Osimhen. pic.twitter.com/txK5ZoFzve
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 3, 2023
The saga has hit Napoli hard. Osimhen was the top goal-scorer for the Serie A champs last season and helped the team to the Champions League quarterfinal. In response to the video, Osimhen threatened legal action through his agent.
Some around European football accused Napoli’s social media staff of racism due to the connection in the video’s sound to a coconut. The nut is considered a slur, particularly in Europe, as it casts the recipient as dark on the outside and white on the inside.
The video featured goofy cartoon-like noises with exaggerated editing to highlight Osimhen’s PK gaffe:
?? This was the original video posted by Napoli about Victor Osimhen… and then deleted.
⚠️ …player’s agent Calenda announced that Osimhen is considering to take legal action against Napoli. pic.twitter.com/0PLunco9aD
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 26, 2023
He returned to Napoli’s XI on Tuesday in a Champions League group-stage match against Real Madrid, which Napoli lost 2-3.
Amid the drama, Osimhen appears destined to leave Napoli when mere months ago, a new contract (his expires in 2025) seemed like a lock.
Still, Henry’s comments are the most aggressive denouncement of Napoli yet.
The Arsenal legend and CBS broadcaster was once called a slur by a Spanish broadcaster and is an outspoken anti-racist advocate.
Henry knows more about being a famous Black soccer player in Europe than nearly anyone in the media. And as ESPN explained, there were many alleging racism over the incident.
Ultimately, it’s up to Osimhen to decide how to respond to Napoli’s poor judgment and play out his future.