Condemnation floods in over Spanish racism18 November 2004

Yet again, the football world is in shock at yet another sequence of racist incidents in an international game. On Wednesday 17 November, England’s black players were constantly abused during a friendly against Spain at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair has joined in the criticism, stating that he was very disappointed at the abuse handed out to the players.

UK Sports Minister, Richard Caborn said,
“I was absolutely appalled by the reaction of the crowd. I will write to my Spanish counterpart to express my outrage. I would like the Spanish FA to condemn the scenes. I also expect Fifa and Uefa to fully investigate the issue. There is no place for racism in football or modern society, and I strongly believe that action needs to be taken at the highest level.”

England Coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, also criticised events,
“It's very bad to hear when people boo players because of the colour of their skin,” said Eriksson. At Lazio four years ago we had some fans who did the same. When things like this happen, then something must be done. I think we behave much better in England than in many other countries.”

The Football Association have already lodged a complaint with UEFA following the abuse suffered by the England U-21 players on Tuesday. They will now be highlighting the incidents during the senior game.

Piara Powar, of UK FARE partner Kick It Out, connected Spain Coach Aragones’ prior comments with the abuse.
“What's happened is quite complex but it's from the same set of values. If I was a Spanish football fan and I'm hearing what Aragones has got away with I would think: 'if he can call racist names at one of the most respected players in the Europe, why can't I get away with monkey chanting?' Here in Britain the press would probably be leading the charge for his head. Uefa needs to threaten the Spanish with closure of stadia, with a ban.”

FARE has desperately tried to establish its initiatives in Spain. Every year, FARE holds its Action Week against racism and discrimination in football, where groups right across Europe are offered money and support to deliver practical measures against racism. However, with few groups on the ground in Spain, take-up is relatively low in that country.

Carlos Nunez, of Spain’s United Against Racism, thinks that the problem is widespread. Racist behaviour can be seen every week up and down the country. Many clubs have neo-Nazi fan groups associated with them, whose racist behaviour is often tolerated by the clubs and authorities.

Nunez has claimed that top black players in the Spanish league regularly face racist abuse, but are reluctant to talk about it. And who can blame them for their silence, if the authorities and press largely ignore the issue? Racist abuse has been heard at many games, yet this is the first time that it has been reported significantly in the Spanish press. Some fear that the abuse will continue unless people start taking this issue more seriously.