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Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football

When Manchester United drew with Liverpool no one wanted to talk about the match between two ancient rivals. Patrice Evra´s accusations of racism towards Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez were incendiary. Ten times during the match, the two players playing head-to-head on the wing, Evra stated that he was racially abused. Suarez denies it, vehemently, on his facebook page. In this week´s match at the Camp Nou, between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC, two late substitutes, Cesc Fabregas for the blaugrana and Fredi Kanoute of the nervionenses got into a heated exchange. Kanoute states he was racially abused and Fabregas comes out and flat-out denies any such incident occurs. A day later, today, in a match between Chelsea and QPR, Chelsea defender John Terry is accused of a similar discretion against defender Anton Ferdinand. One of the cases is certainly true. All of them might be. Who knows, none of them may have any merit at all. What is certain is that it´s an issue.

It is either this: globalization has created a situation where players from many different backgrounds, some that have little education nor experience living and working in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial environment that is modern football, and in high stakes-high pressure situations, lash out with frankly learned behavior that demeans and belittles black players. It´s understandable, I am not making any excuses for it, it is reprehensible, but considering the fact that racism is so endemic in all of our cultures I am not surprised.

That´s the more obvious answer, but what if it´s something else. Hard to prove I´m sure, but what if we´ve jumped the gun on all of these incidents and taken the black players at their word? Could it be possible that in a highly charged environment and with tempers flaring that accusing your opponent of racism has become as de rigueur as the post match-talk to the media-blame the referee session? I would hope that I am not too cynical to believe this sort of nonsense, but it´s rather hard to believe that these players, all of them with few similar incidents before hand, are all racists with an agenda attached to their football boots.

Is it that we are too sensitive and we are bringing up the race card even if it doesn´t apply in a footballing sense or is it real? It´s obvious that we have ethnic, religious and racial problems running through the fabric of our game, but where are we directing our attentions? Blaming the player is abdicating responsibility at the source. The English FA, the Spanish FA, UEFA and FiFA are all to blame for not taking a stronger stand against racists in Europe. Are these incidents any worse than the institutional racism that is going on in Eastern Europe? Are we concerned about Euro 2012 in Poland and in the Ukraine at all? What about the World Cup in Russian in 2018? That worries more than individual incidents in hotly contested domestic matches.



Forza Futbol On October - 26 - 2011
  • Crist Contaoi

    I read in another op-ed piece comparing racism with the weather, everybody speaks about it in extremes, but it’s always outside. It is even sad in comparison to US sports that racial abuse from other players and fans actually exist during a game. Almost every African/Black player experienced racial abuse on the pitch, Henry, Et’o, and most recently Balotelli.

    Campaigns sponsored by Fifa and UEFA to fight racism and racial abuse in the past are obviously failures in their own right. Since these cases with Evra vs. Suarez and the monkey chants from Spanish fans are still prevalent today. Tackling racism on the pitch is not enough – it has to start within the internal structure of The English FA, the Spanish FA, UEFA and FiFA where racism is rigidly structured. How often do we hear about Black/African managers or people of color taking high executive positions within these governing bodies? Very few. Only then we don’t really eradicate the problem of racism, but it’s a direction that should be considered if these organizations want to take racism seriously. These governing bodies should study the history of the NFL and the involvement of pioneers such as the late Al Davis, who in his power hired the first Black coach and first Hispanic coach for his team (club) the Raiders.

    • Anonymous

      Dan Rooney did more for the NFL than Al Davis ever did. Davis might have hired Tom Flores or Art Shell, but Rooney changed the system. Nowadays, teams have to include black coaches in their hiring process. It´s a must. Is it perfect? Nope. Most of the time NFL teams already have a primary candidate and they interview the black coach just to wave any penalty, but a decade later the rule is working. There are people of color in middle and upper management at team level and at the NFL.You know when you´ve become more fair? When you see different colors of people presenting and covering the game in the media.

      I´d love to think that we could eradicate racism, but that just isn´t in the cards. I believe we can limit it, shine a light on it and diminish its effects, but I think it´s too pervasive.

  • Lionheart

    Think about it like this…what if every time Madrid palyed Barca, the fans sang songs praising Franco and his treatment of the Catalans. How can you possibly question that there is racism in football? have you been watching. Accusing the accuser is not the answer.

    The problem with Barca is simple. The club posits itself as a “Catalan institution”. Since when is a football team a referendum on an ethnic group??? It explains why they traded Eto, who had scored 108 goals in 145 appearances for Barca but sneakily pleaded for Fabregas to come “home”.

    Barca can drown in all of their trophies, I’d prefer to watch the EPL, where international TV revenues are split evenly and there aren’t limits on foreign players. Football is the game of the world, not a contest to prove whose tribe is better.

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