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Gebre Selassie: 'I am glad I am different'
by Paul Kennedy, June 21st, 2012 4:51AM

TAGS:  european championship


[EURO 2012 PORTRAIT] One of the revelations of Euro 2012 has been Czech right back Theodor Gebre Selassie. The son of an Ethiopian father who settled in then-Czechoslovakia after attending medical school, Gebre-Selassie has toiled in obscurity in the Czech league, but a move from Slovan Liberec is likely. He'll face the biggest test of his career when he takes on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in Thursday's quarterfinal.

Gebre Selassie’s father met and married a local Czech woman who was a schoolteacher.

Education was important to Theodor's family, and he almost gave up soccer to return to college when he moved to Velke Mezirici in the fourth level of Czech soccer in 2005.

But two years later, he became the first player of African descent to play for the Czech Republic when he debuted for the U-21s.

Football Against Racism in Europe claimed Gebre Selassie was subjected to racist insults from Russian fans in the Czech Republic's opening game against Russia.

But he has taken the attention directed at him in stride.

“I am glad I am different," he said before Euro 2012. "At least, I am more visible. On the other hand, that is a disadvantage when I play badly."

The Czechs lost the Russia game, 4-1, but recovered with a 2-1 win over Greece -- Gebre Selassie set up the first goal --  and 1-0 victory over co-host Poland to win Group A.

The 25-year-old Gebre Selassie's biggest test will come against Ronaldo, who scored both goals in Portugal's 2-1 win over the Netherlands to reach the quarterfinals.

"Gebre Selassie is performing very well, he's fit and of course it's a very interesting challenge for him because Ronaldo can score 40-50 goals in one season and you have to play exceptionally to defend against him," said Czech coach Michal Bilek. "But to defend well the emphasis is not just on Theo, we have to close the defense and not give him space because if Ronaldo runs at you it's impossible to stop him."

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