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when are things going to change?

March 23, 2011

Well, I wanted to write something about this, but then I came across this article by José Félix Díaz in El Confidencial, and it basically says everything I wanted to say, so here’s the translation.

Anything goes in sports, or actually, football.  If you had a bad week, if you were fired from work, if you had an argument with your husband or your wife, there’s a solution.  And it’s even free.  The solution is very simple.  Buy a ticket for a football game and you can insult, shout and wish death upon whomever you want, with no additional fees required.

The worse part about what happened in the Vicente Calderón when a section of the fans wished death upon Mourinho and Ronaldo, and called Marcelo a monkey, is that no one reacted.  The first people who can act are the referees.  The Federation told the referees that they should reflect in their match reports any acts of insulting, whether it’s racist or not, that occurs during a game.  Texeira Vitiens must have been the only person in the Calderón who didn’t hear the chants from the crowd.  To date, no team has been sanctioned by the Competition Committee of the federation for similar incidents.  It’s a vicious cycle.  The referees don’t report it and Competition doesn’t punish it.

Sources from the federation say that everything will change when a referee makes the decision himself, or responds to the request of a player, to suspend a game for insults from the stands.  There are very few referees who dare to do write these things in the match report.  Pino Zamorano, in the second division, did try to do this in a Betis-Cartegena game last season.  Ramirez Domínguez also noted the shouts in a Mallorca-Barcelona game.

Samuel Eto’o is one of the few players who has taken a stand against racist insults.  In a game against Zaragoza, he decided to leave the game after people in the stands repeatedly made gorilla noises.  Only the intervention of his teammates prevented him from leaving the field in the middle of the game.  The same thing happened last season while he was with Inter.  It was in Cagliari and the game was stopped for three minutes.  What’s more, a judge decided to close the ultra section of Juventus for racist insults against Balotelli in 2009.

The Consejo Superior de Deportes approved a law against violence and xenophobia in sports in July 2007.  The problem is that it’s not applied, at least not as how it was intended.  The law permits the referee to suspend any type of sporting event in which there are racist insults or attacks against the honor of the athletes or referees.  There are also punishments that range from fines of €150-6,000 or a jail sentence, as well as a ban on going to any sporting arena.  But what happens is that if no one speaks up, there is no possibility of a punishment.

The Antiviolence Commission has proposed punishing fans or clubs that don’t comply with the norms, but always after the police reports things.  Now the question is clear.  Why does football look the other way?  In basketball, games have already been stopped due to insults against the referees.  No more reason is needed.

The curious thing is that the players are trying to do something about it.  Just yesterday, Keita, Piqué and Messi participated in a UNESCO video against racism, as players from Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla and Atlético had done before.  The problem is that the message does not reach some of the fans.

This type of thing happens way too much with Spanish fans in sports.  I think another big problem is that some Spanish people don’t perceive these types of things (making monkey noises, for example) as racism.  They just don’t get it; they’re either in denial or just not that smart.

And I didn’t like what David de Gea said yesterday: “it’s not nice to hear such shouts in the Calderón, but it happens in a lot of stadiums.”  Why couldn’t he just have stopped after the first part?  The second part makes it sound like he’s saying it’s not that bad, because it happens everywhere, so in a way, it’s okay.  No, it’s not okay.  And it never will be.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Whiskey permalink
    March 23, 2011 11:39

    Hmm interesting piece although the opening part seems to suggest that a lot of this type of behaviour comes from people venting their frustrations in their daily lives when they get to the match [and maybe that wasn’t the writers intent – and he is clearly not excusing it] But there is no excuse for this behaviour and its born of ignorance and lack of respect. I would like to think its a very small minority of fans who do this sort of thing – but that is probably a naive view and there were certainly enough at the Calderon for the Marcelo chants to be heard. Una did anyone from the club come out and condemn this [i mean a “spokesperson” from Athletico – not De Gea!] Its ironic isn’t it that before many games the players are asked to trot out these anti racism banners etc – I seem to recall there even being speeches given before some of the world cup matches – but the various federations seem to be paying lip service to this issue. Thanks for posting this Una.

  2. Lenandro permalink
    March 23, 2011 12:02

    Sad to say de gea is right, when i was at el classico the audience shouted insults to the madrid players all the time. And it is even worse in other countries where they do not only insult but throws fireworks on to the pitch etc.

    The problem is the audience, who is takeing the opportunity to get rid of frustrations that has nothing to do with the game. To a lot of fans it is ok to sneer at other teams, and their fans. Even mature persons that you would expect to be better.

    I myself totally agree with you and the article.

  3. Mani Thangadurai permalink
    March 23, 2011 12:28

    I think it’s pretty much endemic Una, even the managers seem to be not so bothered. Even a supposedly respected manager like Luis Aragones got into the news for wrong reasons when he referred to Thierry Henry as a ‘black little ****’.

    I would say that if the clubs themselves take action against their own fans by deciding themselves to host Liga matches in front of an empty stadium with doors closed to the public then it could hurt the club, but the fans also will indirectly be hurt as well. It might be way too drastic an action but it can be considered.

    There should also be more use of CCTV to identify guilty fans and punish them with a life ban from the club and/or a jail sentence. It’s high time that football cracks down on racism in this manner, as you say!

    • DebS permalink
      March 23, 2011 21:57

      “I would say that if the clubs themselves take action against their own fans by deciding themselves to host Liga matches in front of an empty stadium with doors closed to the public”

      While this is an excellent suggestion, it will never happen. The clubs, particularly those already in financial dire straits, need the money from ticket/food/souvenirs, etc. at these events to pay personnel and other expenses. They couldn’t afford to close off the stadium to fans, even if for one game and the fans know this so until there’s some other punishment, it will continue. :{

      • Mani Thangadurai permalink
        March 24, 2011 15:44

        True, but it’s probably a better idea for the club to do it themselves than risk that sort of punishment from UEFA. Mind you, that punishment if it comes from UEFA can run for a course of more than a few games if the club’s supporters are found guilty, so they might as well bite that bullet!

  4. Cindy permalink
    March 23, 2011 12:28

    Una I agree with this article. It’s a shame that no wants to take a stand against racism. Nothing will change as long as the refees don’t implement the rules, and let the chants, and tossing of items onto the pitch continue. I can’t understand were purchasing a ticket to attend a game gives someone the right to insult a player or his family. But you know what REAL MADRID were the biger team, & Marcelo & Cris were the bigger men on the pitch for ignoring the idiots.

  5. March 23, 2011 12:49

    Wow, you are fired up. And for good reason. It blows my mind that, in this day and age, when we know that something is wrong on such a base, human level, some people still insist on engaging in it. It’s so gross and uncalled for and the people who do it must know that it makes the people around them uncomfortable.

    • DebS permalink
      March 23, 2011 22:01

      Sadly, I think because there are so many people around them that participate, they only get more amped up to continue. It’s the whole mob mentality.

      Unfortunately, the kids in the stands see adults acting like this with nothing being done to stop it. They then think that this is appropriate behavior and they grow up to be the same kind of fans. Not all kids, mind you, but enough to make a difference.

  6. March 23, 2011 14:14

    I completely and fully agree. The players are doing all they can already, with the PSAs, the videos, the pledges before games (they even do it in different languages, like they did during the World Cup)… it really is up to the referees already to implement the rules and laws in place. Fans need to know that this cannot be tolerated, and that they and their teams will suffer the consequences if this continues.

  7. March 23, 2011 14:15

    Thank you for this translation and speaking out, una. As I said the other day on my blog, the players should *not* have to ‘get used to this’ which seems to be the general attitude – it happens, deal with it. Racist, xenophobic and homophobic chants should be punished. Period. I’ve also been saddened that Spanish authorities don’t seem to see fit to punish fans for lasers, throwing debris and other unsportsmanlike habits. It seems that the fans are allowed to run rampant. Just look at the situation in Greek soccer right now – that’s what happens when people aren’t reigned in – it escalates. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check this out:

    As for De Gea, he’s a kid. He should know better, but when it comes down to it, he is correct – it does happen at a lot of stadiums. I wish he had been a bit more firm about the first part of his statement, but I’m not looking for a 20 year old kid to lead the effort. He can definitely be a part of it though. Videos aren’t enough. The rules need to be enforced. Games should be stopped. Fans fined and ejected from the game. If Spanish authorities don’t act, nothing will change.

    There are groups like FARE: and Show Racism the Red Card (in the UK/US)

    Maybe it’s time for a Spanish chapter to start.

  8. Marcus G permalink
    March 23, 2011 14:37

    Glad to see someone notice. I am half Brazlian and African American and my graduation gift from college is a trip to Madrid, but after noticing all the racisim my mom asked if I was sure. I would not let this stop me and hopefully one day it will stop.

    • DebS permalink
      March 23, 2011 22:09

      Marcus, I would definitely still go. It may be a once in a life time chance. I could be wrong but I want to believe that this behavior is seen by these fans as a way to “support” their team by hurling insults at players from opposing teams. While there are racists everywhere, I’d like to think that this type of behavior is limited to these fans, at least on a wide scale basis.

      The more I read stories online I see that there are these hooligans in just about ever league around the world, and I suspect in every sport too.

  9. suzanne permalink
    March 23, 2011 15:02

    amen una, amen. someone on another forum i go to said that eto’o should’ve gotten over it…there shouldn’t be a need to. my question is, would you do it to their faces? no, then you are a coward and shouldn’t do it in the stands either. it puts a black eye on the sport. unfortunately it makes the whole country look bad when it happens. something needs to stop this.

    • DebS permalink
      March 23, 2011 22:20

      Suzanne, unfortunately there are people who believe this way about minorities in general. I think until someone has been discriminated against because of their race or beliefs, they will truly never understand.

      I think many people are surprised when I sympathize with race or religious discrimination in spite of me being Caucasian and of Christian beliefs. I truly believe that they act this way out of ignorance and the way they were raised, which in no way excuses it.

      Regardless, it needs to stop. And, as the article states, until the refs or other authorities stand up and take action, it will continue. In my daughter’s high school district the policy was that offensive comments from fans towards the opposing team or it’s fans were ejected from the gym. I saw it happen a couple of times and once it happened, the rest of those fans from that school stopped. I expect the result at these games would be similar, particularly if the fans stop to think about how much it cost them to get into the game and thus how much they’d lose if tossed from the game.

  10. Pammie permalink
    March 23, 2011 22:50

    Thanks so much for translating this article, UM! I’ve been wondering if this is talked about in the Spanish press or if just the foreign press picked it up.

    I think the players could make a statement and stop playing collectively as soon as chanting starts. To show the crowd that it is not ok and also to support their team mates.

    What exactly are the refs afraid of? Why don’t they report the chants?

  11. GinaM permalink
    March 23, 2011 23:15

    Well Said Una, I believe most of the racism in soccer comes from jealousy. Obviously Madrid having such great players made the home team fans angry and shout out slurs. It should be banned honestly. And I think it should be fair that if the referee hears racist slurs or insults the game should be stopped unless they can behave.

    Sports is for us to enjoy for entertainment and those players live to entertain us on the field, so show them the respect that they deserve.

    Good Article UNA 🙂

  12. Cosi permalink
    March 24, 2011 01:46

    Thanks for the translation, Una! Absolutely ridiculous behavior from ignorant and shallow fans, and shame on the refs who apparently think those humongous SAY NO TO RACISM signs during international games does not apply to them.

    Love your blog, as always.

  13. Gillian permalink
    March 24, 2011 02:23

    “No, it’s not okay. And it never will be.”

    Yup! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  14. March 24, 2011 05:23

    This reminds me of something else I wrote a while back about how although there is an atmosphere of multiculturalism in Canada, racism is still alive and well. In this day and age, things like this should no longer be tolerated, and yet it is because no one would take a stronger stand against it. It’s one thing to film advertisements to advocate against racism and another to actually stand up for a fellow player during a game by telling the fans to stop. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate that they’ve taken the time to film those things but things like that are just too easy for people to ignore. I hope none of our players are racially intolerant…

  15. March 24, 2011 08:03

    Very interesting, and I also have an issue with what De Gea said. The refs have to crack down on it, and I think clubs also need to take action towards their own fans, orelse it will remain unpunished. Clubs and the RFEF should realize it gives them a negative reputation that reflects badly on Spanish people as a whole, which is a big shame.

  16. Double d permalink
    March 24, 2011 22:35

    Racism is a cancer. If you catch it early you can keep it from spreading and destroying all that it touches.

    It amazes me that a contintent that prides itself on being more rich in culture, and forward thinking than Americans….well, exhibt some serious pre-civil rights era racist behaviour.

    De Gea missed the boat with that comment. My son is heading toward twenty fast, and he knows what bullshit looks, sounds and smells like. However, the owners, shareholders, coaches, and front office staff have a responsibility to protect all that play for them.

  17. kiki permalink
    March 25, 2011 00:58

    I agree with you Una and I’m glad for this post. I believe the highest levels will have to enforce a blanket punishment along with the culture addressing it through media and government channels for a difference to be made. The weight cannot be placed on the shoulders of one referee. It’s sad when such a beautiful country culturally & football-wise bears the reputation of being racist. Who can forget that England/Spain match. I know many other countries are even more ignorant regarding this issue, but one would expect Spain to be at a level to address it better.


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