Angel Maria Villar Llona, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, astonished the European football family by seeming to downplay the seriousness of racism in football. Speaking at UEFA’s 2nd Unite Against Racism conference held at Barcelona’s Nou Camp, the Spanish football boss told the packed auditorium,
“Of course we are against racism, but there is a small minority that perpetuates it. Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill. Let's not blow it out of proportion.”
The remarks, which came at the end of an otherwise very successful conference, stunned the crowd of footballers, activists, politicians, national associations, clubs and UEFA representatives.
At odds with UEFA’s view
Confusingly, Llona’s speech contradicts his own statement in the conference programme which read,
“We cannot let our guard down. We must press on with our fight,” and describing racism as
“Deeply hurtful and troubling.”
Llona, who is also a UEFA vice-president, also seemed at odds with European football’s governing body. UEFA has strove to rid the game of racism for several years, making it its top priority and giving significant financial support to the FARE network.
Earlier, UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson said,
“There are two key elements of the fight against racism, which has to be acknowledged as a serious problem within football and society. First, you have to raise awareness and change people's attitudes. A lot of people don't understand that there is a problem because they don't meet racism in their ordinary daily lives. It's important to make people realise that there is a problem and that they have a role to play in eradicating it.”
“Also, awareness has to be raised in certain countries – whereas some countries may be aware of the issue because they have large ethnic communities, others are less aware. It is up to everyone to raise the issues and help increase knowledge throughout Europe.”
In his opening speech, UEFA boss Lars-Christer Olsson drew attention to the racist abuse that Espanyol’s black goalkeeper Idriss Kameni, had recently received from his own fans.
Only one year previously, Spanish football was the focus of intense media interest following the horrific abuse suffered by England’s black players during a friendly international in Madrid.
Spanish coach Luis Arogones had earlier caused international outrage when he racially slurred Arsenal’s Thierry Henry during a Spanish national team training session. Many feel that the Spanish FA failed to take adequate action in that instance, fining Arogones a paltry 3000 euros.
Racism clearly exists in Spanish football, as it does to varying extents in all countries, but until the RFEF acknowledges the problem and takes it seriously then eradicating it will prove difficult.
Listed below are a selection of news articles relevant to the campaign in Spanish football.
Clemente denies racism slur
Athletico Madrid fined over fans' racism
Espanyol investigate own fans’ racism
Racism gets the boot in Spain
Malaga plea to fans to curb racism
Carlos gives shirt to extremist
FARE conference calls for the sacking of Aragones
Wanchope in racist scuffle
Aragones slapped with paltry fine
Player slams Spanish lack of action
Ref stops game after racist abuse
Spanish FA failing to deal with racists
Eto'o calls for a united stance against racism
FIFA punishment too lenient
Barcelona's Eto'o suffers racist abuse
Double shame of Bernabeu
FARE calls for action over England abuse
England suffer 90 minutes of abuse