Spanish Officials Condemn Racism At England Game

Simon Baskett, Reuters, Nov. 18

MADRID—Spain’s government and soccer federation have condemned racist chanting during a friendly in Madrid between Spain and England, blaming a small group of fans for behaviour that has caused outrage in Britain.

Spain won Wednesday’s friendly at Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium with a stylish performance, the only goal coming from a ninth minute header from defender Asier del Horno.

But the game was marred by continual monkey noises directed at visiting black players and by a regular chorus of “If you are not f**king black, jump up and down” sung by large sections of the 55,000 crowd.

Spanish media and football authorities at first glossed over the racist chants, accusing their English counterparts of mounting a witch-hunt.

Officials spoke out after anti-racism groups and British ministers condemned the racial abuse of England’s black players and demanded action.

“I condemn without doubt the racist displays that may have happened . . . These kind of comments are deplorable,” the minister responsible for sport, Maria Jesus San Segundo, said.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said it agreed with the government’s statement “condemning . . . the racist attitude of a small group of Spanish fans”.

The federation said it would step up a campaign against racism in football it began last season.

“If there were racist chants then that is deplorable and lamentable,” a spokesman for Spain’s Foreign Ministry said. “I am certain that it was only a small element of the crowd and Spain strongly rejects such behaviour.”

Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and the leader of the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, Feliciano Mayoral, added their voices to the condemnation of racism.

Noting that citizens of more than 180 countries live in Madrid, Ruiz-Gallardon said of Wednesday’s scenes: “A minority cannot represent the feeling of Madrid and Spanish society.”

After the game the Spanish Federation’s press officer Fernando Garrido refused to permit questions about the incidents, saying that some of the blame for the incident lay with English reporters.

“Were there racist chants against some players? This hasn’t happened in the Spanish league and Spain for many years,” he said. “So you (English reporters) should ask yourselves what you have done to contribute to all this.”

The organisation SOS Against Racism called for forthright action from the Federation.

“The Spanish Football Federation is clearly less sensitive towards racism and xenophobia than other federations in Europe and has talked of ‘provocation’ instead of dealing with the incident,” spokeswoman Begona Sanchez told Spanish news agency Europa Press.

ANGRY DEFENCE

The match was preceded by controversy involving coach Luis Aragones, who referred to France striker Thierry Henry as “that black shit”.

Aragones refused to comment on the chanting. “I’ve always said my conscience is clear and I only want to talk about football,” he said.

An anti-racist video was shown before the match on the stadium’s big screens and the teams lined up behind a banner bearing the slogan “All united against racism in football”.

The atmosphere soon soured with Ashley Cole and later substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips greeted by monkey noises every time they touched the ball.

Spanish daily ABC accused English reporters of mounting an orchestrated campaign against Aragones. “The English media continued their witch-hunt against the Spanish coach over the issue of racism,” it said.

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