No Red Card Against Racism in Football

The inevitable happened. After a Spanish  Football (season ) full of racism incidents in several stadiums  (Wanda stadium of Atletico de Madrid, Camp Nou of Barcelona FC , Zorilla stadium of  Club Valladolid, El Sadar stadium of  Club Osasuna, Stadium San Moix of Mallorca FC and Benito San Martin of Betis FC )  it was the racist attacks  (chants and gestures  of “monkey directed against the  player, chants and gestures that started  from the moment the team of Vini Jr , Real Madrid,  arrived in the stadium and that continue through the game) in  Mestalla stadium of the Valencia FC that that finally exposed to a global audience the  tolerance of racism behavior  of  the Spanish professional league, the lack of action of authorities to enforce current laws against racism and hate crime, the complicity of many members of the Spanish press, authorities of the clubs above and even of some rival coaches and  fellow rival players that tried to minimize the racist attacks by either blaming the player and tried to justify the behavior  with the well-known racist excuses  of  “there were only few fans “ or “only lasted for few moments“.   

The global outcry against systematic racism in the Liga made the news all over the world, even the President of Brazil and Vini Jr `s compatriot raise the issue demanding action to his counterpart the Prime Minister of Spain and finally made people in Spain not only football fans discussed the issue of racism in the country. Brazil, the winner of 5 world Cups, wore black on their exhibition game in Spain to show their support for their player and to tell the world that racist has no place in football, sport or in the larger society. 

For me it was interesting to observe that the response “employed by the Liga President, football authorities of the clubs under investigation as well as many members of the press and even rival coaches and players were very similar in Spain that I have observed in many other countries when confronted with the question: is this a racist society?  

Their response of the racist and those that said that they are no racist was the same. 

First, let’s blame the victim. Vini considered one of the best players in the world was accused of provoking the attacks by his attitude, his style of playing and even by calling to the attention of authorities the racist treatment received in multiple stations around the League. The racist and their enablers said there are other black players in the League, and they do not receive such a treatment. 

 First lie, Vini Jr and 4 other players of the Spanish League (Inaki and Nico Williams (from Atletico Bilbao), Carlos Akapo (Cadiz FC) and Samu Chukwueze (Villareal FC) have been targets of such attack and no action was taken by the Liga or the Spanish authorities. It is no coincidence that Vini who plays is the most decorated team in the world will call the ire of the racist more than other less know players. Players of color that play in second, third division have also been the target of racist attacks but no reported by the media, but complaints filed in courts. 

Second, let’s minimize the issue. The statements from the sport authorities, some of the media ranged from “there were only a few fans “, “it happens outside the stadium stands” but more worrisome was the statement from the judges that fail to punish fans of Atletico Madrid by stating that the racist insults took place but lasted only few moments. 

Second lie, the racists attacks have taken place the entire year in multiple stadiums around La Liga as noted above. The video from the Valencia game shows dozens of fans chanting racist phrases from the time the Real Madrid bus enter the stadiums. The “few “excuse is easily debunked by watching the video. 

Third lie , La Liga and Spanish authorities deal firmly against this behavior and punish those responsible according to their President Tebas.  

It took months to punish four fans (members of one Atletico fan support group) that hung a doll from a bridge with Vinici shirt .  The Liga President after months of denying the issue with racism on la Liga and attacking the player now it said they will not tolerate this behaviour. 

By the time of this blog only 1 team Valladolid to their credit has banned fans for life from their stadium and finally Valencia stadium will have to close the zone from where they more racist attacks came from during the game. Still Valencia appeal for considering unjust but they saw no problem with having kids observing fans (many their parents) yelling racist chants. Valencia team stated that they demand respect for their institution, the same dozens of their fans denied to a person just by their color of his skin. No other team from the ones mentioned above has been sanctioned, neither has other fans. 

It was the world outcry that finally made La Liga, the Spanish Football federations to accept responsibility and start taking action including revising the protocol when racist behavior take place in the stadiums in the future. The Spanish police has stated that in the future they will stop games if they detect such behavior.  The new season which starts in August will tell us if La Liga and Spanish Authorities are true to their word.  

The Vini case is a clear example that in when discrimination and racist takes place the focus is on the person that suffer the attacks and not on those that produce the violence. Vini had the courage to bring the spotlight on racism without consequences in La Liga and start the conversation all over Spain about racism and how much still needs to be done to eradicate racism in the Spanish society. 

It Spain a racist country? No.  I can bear testimony that is not and to the credit of many in the Spanish society they did not use the language and the excuses that I highlighted above. They admitted that racism is a problem that needs to be addressed thru education and accountability in La Liga and in the Spanish society at large.  

Photo credit: Copyright © 2023 Carlos E. Caballero All Rights Reserved.