racism in Spanish football, an ancient evil

Real Madrid striker Vinicius Junior was once again the victim of racial abuse on Sunday in Valencia.

It has almost become a routine. Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior faced racial abuse on Sunday 21 May when his team moved from Real Madrid to Valencia. Once again, one might say, the Madrilenian – or rather, the color of his skin – is the target of visceral hatred in many Spanish stadiums. Before Mestalla there were, among others, Barcelona, ​​​​​​Valladolid or Mallorca with, each time, “mono, mono” (“monkey”) clearly fell from the stands. Qualified insults such as “hate crime“from the club meringue, who announced that he would file a complaint the day after the events.

“We have a problem of behavior, education, racism in our country”Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales acknowledged at a press conference on Monday. Vinicio went even further. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi is now racist”he was indignant in a message on Instagram, ironically attaching the slogan “No es fyoutbol, ​​es La Liga” (“It’s not football, it’s La Liga”), so dear to the sulphurous president of the Spanish Football League, Javier Tebas.

La Liga blames Vinicius

Faced with this situation which tarnishes the image of his championship, the latter has found nothing better than… to punish Vinicio’s behaviour. “We wanted to explain to you what La Liga is doing to take action against racism, but you didn’t show up for any meeting planJavier Tebas tweeted on Sunday evening. Before criticizing and insulting La Liga, you need to inform yourself.”

The effectiveness of the protocol implemented by the institution is struggling to translate into stadiums, given that the cases have multiplied in recent months. About ten racism complaints have been filed since the start of the season, as many as in the previous five years. However, these very rarely lead to penalties. Last December, the Court of Madrid, for example, exonerated some Atlético fans, on the grounds that their songs – which already compared Vinicius to a monkey – were part of a context of “great sports rivalry”, the Madrid derby in this case. Real Valladolid, for its part, inflicted a heavier penalty on ten of its supporters (three-year ban from the stadium) than the one promulgated by justice (a one-year ban and a 4,000-euro fine). Valencia announced it in a press release [en espagnol]on Monday, his intention to ban the people who assaulted Vinicius for life on Sunday.

Pape Cheikh Diop, who moved from Lyon, was also the victim of racist abuse when he played for Levante, in 2014, during a match against Atlético.“I also suffered from it in France, but it’s even stronger in Spainhe narrated for Marca in 2021. No sanctions were then taken against the Colchoneros fans, to which Diop responded by dancing. “They also asked me for an apology. It says a lot about how the problem is seen in Spain”, he continued. Other notable episodes, such as the banana throwing against Daniel Alves in Villarreal in 2014 or the howling monkeys against Samuel Eto’o in Zaragoza in 2006, had already punctuated Spanish football, with no meetings being arrested.

The far right on the rise

To date, only one match has already been stopped due to “incitement to hatred” across the Pyrenees, in a very specific context. During a second division match in December 2019, Albacete’s Ukrainian player Roman Zozulya was called up “Nazi” by some supporters of Rayo Vallecano, club marked on the left. The match was canceled at half time.“All situations are different, it’s up to the referee’s discretion”then explained shortly after Javier Tebas on La Sexta, hiding behind an amazing “double weight and two measures”.

Rayo Vallecano fans hostile to the arrival of Roman Zozulya, 5 February 2017. (MARISCAL / EFE)

The man makes no secret of his political views: “I know where I am and it’s public: I haven’t voted for many years and since I’ve done it again, I’ve always done it for Vox”he said inside El Periodico de España . This political formation (the first on this side since the fall of Francoism in 1975) is credited with 15% of voting intentions, according to a GAD3 poll for ABC in March 2023, making it the third largest in the country.Vox presents itself as an authoritarian, xenophobic, homophobic and nationalist party”said Lluis Orriols, professor of political science at the Carlos III University of Madrid, in The echoes in 2018 . These repeated ambiguous statements by the president of La Liga do not help much to take measures of the problem.

In 2007, however, Spain adopted a law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport.“But the problem is that we don’t actrelieves Raul Martinez Corcuera, professor of communication at the University of Vic interviewed by AFP in April 2021. We have to close grandstands, stadiums, we have to clean up.” The road is still long.

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