Church Analytics

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Racism in Footbal (Spain)

On 17 November 2004, Getafe was the venue for the friendly between Spain and England and was the scene of the most appalling display of mass racism at a major European football match for a long time. The meaning and consequences of that night still reverberate around Spain and Europe.

Getafe itself is no stranger to racism. In February, Osasuna striker Richard Morales was subject to persistent racial abuse but Getafe were fined a paltry £435 by the Spanish Football Federation. As the team coaches arrived for the match and the players made their way into the stadium, scores of fans rushed up to the wire fence and shouted 'nigger, nigger' at Daniel Kome, a Cameroon midfielder and Getafe's only black player. In fact, he was the only nonwhite face there - except Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos -but outside the stadium overlooking the ground. There, more than half the spectators, mainly kids, were of North African origin. Getafe is an immigrant town, but when it comes to football it is a metaphor for racial segregation. For some bizarre reason, even during the warm-up, Kome was to be seen training on his own, away from the rest of the squad.

That November night at the Bernabéu triggered an epidemic of racial abuse at Spain's football grounds. It remains etched on the memories of those who were present. Marcelino Bondjale, who was born in Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, and came to the country 25 years ago, was one of them. Now 44 years old, he is a teacher and general secretary of the Coalición Española contra el Racismo [Cecra], the Spanish Coalition Against Racism. 'There were almost as many black people on the pitch as in the stadium. About eight altogether.' His colleague from Cecra, Carlos Ferreyra Núñez, a doctor, said: 'Eight out of 10 people were monkey chanting. It was more or less the whole stadium. Even the VIP section was monkey chanting. Most of the crowd was middle class, even upper class.' Diego Torres, a sports journalist for El Pais, commented: 'The reaction of the fans was shameful. I felt ashamed. It was the worst racist behaviour I have ever seen in Spain.' Nor was it confined to the stadium.

After the match, Fernando Garrido, the spokesman for the Spanish Federation ( the RFEF), claimed that the racist chanting had been without precedent at Spanish grounds 'for years', implying that it was all the fault of the British media for attacking Luis Aragonés, the Spanish manager, over comments he had made about Thierry Henry. Juan Castro, a journalist on the sports daily Marca, expresses a widely held view. 'Monkey chanting does not have a racist cause,' he says. 'It is a way of insulting the enemy team. It has a football cause, not a racial motivation. The Bernabéu was a cultural thing. It was a joke. It wasn't racist.'

Spain is in denial about its racism.

The exception? 'It is well known,' says Bondjale,a journalist, 'that any time a black player gets the ball, there is monkey chanting - this is the norm. When monkey chanting starts, part of the crowd is silent, the other joins in. And nobody ever does anything. No one has ever been prosecuted for monkey chanting. The police can be standing two metres away and they never intervene.'
So, contrary to what Garrido claims, racist chanting is nothing new. But that night at the Bernabéu exposed the racism in Spanish football to the uncomfortable glare of international publicity for the first time. 'Since then,' according to Diego Torres, 'there has been a kind of disease that has been spreading, by example, around the football grounds.'

Atlético Madrid fans chanted racist abuse against Real's Roberto Carlos during the derby on 9 January, for which the club was fined a mere £435. Albacete and Real Zaragoza fans have racially abused Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o in recent matches. Deportivo La Coruña fans chanted racial insults at Roberto Carlos. The referee, to his credit, called a brief halt to the game. The day before Getafe's game with Real in March, Paulo Wanchope was running through his toning-down exercises after a game at Málaga when a small group of home fans - his team's supporters - began racially abusing him. 'It all started,' according to Wanchope, who is from Costa Rica, 'when one fan started to shout all sorts of things at me with a megaphone. I was worthless. I made too much money. I decided to go to the stands and told him to say it to my face. He kicked me so I defended myself. Another fan hit me from behind. A small group of fans then started to make monkey noises and started shouting negro de mierda [black shit - the phrase that Aragonés used to describe Henry, to his clubmate José Antonio Reyes].'

Eto'o, from Cameroon, has been the target of much racist abuse. To his credit, like Henry, he has not remained silent, even though, in this climate of denial, black players are risking their own prospects by speaking out. After he scored in a match against Real Zaragoza, the crowd started to monkey chant; Eto'o responded by imitating a monkey. 'People paid for their tickets to see a monkey and so I did it. Each time this happens then I will do it.' A relatively recent arrival in Spain, Eto'o added: 'I thought the racist chanting was just a fad, but it seems to be becoming more widespread and more vitriolic.' Asked if a black referee could ever take charge of a Primera Liga game, he said: 'If one arrived here, then they would kill him.'
In reply to a question about what might be done to combat racism, Eto'o said: 'It is the journalists and the white players who can send the strongest messages.'
Alas, few journalists spoke out against Aragonés and, in the great majority, they have remained silent about the racism. Not a single white player has made his voice heard, David Beckham included. The role of the RFEF has been despicable. Rather than criticising Aragonés for his racist outburst against Henry, they have consistently defended him. They refused to take any action or make any statement against the racist chanting that engulfed the Bernabéu that November night. Eventually, at the request of Spain's Comisión Antiviolencia (Anti-Violence Commission), the RFEF fined Aragonés - some four months after the event - a derisory £2,000 for his attack on Henry. Their president, Angel María Villar, recently accused those who have continued to criticise Aragonés, adding: ' Everyone knows Aragonés is not a racist.'

Meanwhile, their spokesman Fernando Garrido said, somewhat contradictorily: 'There is no racism in our football. Absolutely no racism. We are sure about it. There is an occasional incident.'

To add insult to injury, the RFEF recently stopped its grant to the Coalition Against Racism. Carlos Ferreyra Núñez, the organisation's president, said: ' The Coalition feels that it is a punishment for speaking out against racism.'
The events at the Bernabéu have poisoned the atmosphere not only in football but also in the wider society. This is the price now being paid for the RFEF's support for Aragonés's racism and their refusal to condemn the racist behaviour that scarred the England game. Even the Spanish government has moved reluctantly, promising action while doing virtually nothing.

Extraordinarily, the Anti-Violence Commission - which was established in response to the violence at football grounds, some of it racially inspired - has not a single representative from the ethnic minorities.
The minorities remain deeply isolated in Spanish society, especially the Africans, who live on the edge of the economy in a twilight world of casualised labour. The gypsies, who number almost a million, have been outcasts for centuries. The Spaniards, with their fingers in their ears and their eyes firmly shut, remain in denial. There is no anti-racist legislation, except that required by the European Directive on Discrimination. Spain has barely begun to think about these issues.

According to Marcelino Bondjale, 'racism against blacks is worse than 20 years ago. Football is an expression of this. There are more blacks now, but the Spanish people haven't changed. When I have a problem with the police they don't believe I am Spanish. I suffer the same racism as an immigrant. My son (just five and born in Spain) is not treated as Spanish. The teacher tells the class he is from Africa. The danger is that the situation in football could worsen the situation in society.'

Santiago Seguroila, the sports editor of El Pais, Spain's most influential paper, and virtually the only journalist to call for the sacking of Aragonés after his original outburst against Henry, is very concerned about the deterioration in the situation. 'Spain used to be a closed society with no immigration. Everyone here was Spanish. It was football that brought the first people of colour from Latin America and Africa during the Fifties and Sixties. During that time there was no problem with racist chanting in the stadiums. But in the past 15 years, Spain has experienced serious immigration for the first time. There are tensions in society and these have been magnified by the Madrid bombing. Luis Aragonés should have been fired. His words were intolerable. The example of the Spanish Federation is very sad. They try to forget what happened. But it is dangerous because the ultra-right movements are trying to use it. As yet it is not an acute problem, but it could grow into one.'

The racism that blights Spanish football is not unique: on the contrary, in some degree or another, it exists in every European country. But, as Piara Powar, the coordinator of Britain's Kick it Out campaign points out, 'the special significance of the Bernabéu was that it was so high profile, with a global audience and huge numbers involved".
This was a recent game at the beginning of this week in a game between Lyons and Rennes. The white player, Milan Baros closed his nose as the black player,
Stephane M’Bia came close to him.
Did Stephane fart, or is this a racist gesture?


SET said...

I tell you boy, what makes anyone to think they are better than the next man based on the color of the skin. I wonder because i am not sure why. Him holding his nose fr any reason makes him the stupid and naive one period.

LurLar said...

Dats right SET, dey r just ignorant set of pple, all dey want is for us to throw back d hatred at dem, but does dat solve any racism problems? NO.Well maybe dis shld be a new strategy for African players, make dem dey go play ball stinking as hell, so dey can all close their nose, nd dey would have d chance to score, nd win all d i knw it's not possible, but what can i say na, i feel bad for d black guy sha.

Vera Ikeji said...

Lurlar,that isn't a bad idea,lol. But like u said, it won't