Racism in football

by Lorraine Williamson
racism in football
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FOOTBALL – Racism is totally unacceptable in any shape or form. But it is still happening everywhere. And was witnessed last night while watching a Spanish professional football match.

Racism in football is nothing new. In the 1970s and 1980s professional black players faced severe discrimination by fans, simply because of their skin colour of their. The UK has an initiative “Show racism the red card” which involves education and awareness. The campaign marks its 25th anniversary – but it appears little progress has been made.  Racism in football is happening both on and off the field. And there have been calls for social media companies to do more to tackle the problem.

Victim of racism in football

In Spain, last night, French footballer Mouctar Diakhaby who plays for Valencia was the victim of racial hatred in La Liga. The game against Cadiz was stopped for 20 mintues following an incident between Diakhaby and Juan Cala. The altercation involving the two players happened in the 29th minute. They both clashed in a challenge for the ball. Immediately after the challenge as Diakhaby was walking away, he appeared to turn round and head back towards Cala. Diakhaby was visibly upset and team mates tried to calm him down. Cameras caught one of the team mates, telling Cala he could not say the words “negro de mierda” which translated mean “shitty black”.

Racist insult

The racist insult caused the Valencian team to walk off the pitch in protest and support of Diakhaby. Cadiz also left the pitch and returned down the tunnel. The match was stopped for around 20 minutes. During which time, match officials threatened Valencia with the loss of points if they did not return and continue. As reported by The Guardian, Diakhaby urged his team mates to continue with the game. “Diakhaby told us he heard a racist insult so we all went off the pitch,” said team captain, Gayà. “We were told that we had to play because if we didn’t they would take the three points off us and maybe we’d be docked more points. Diakhaby asked us to play on, we wouldn’t have done so if he hadn’t done so. He said he wasn’t in the right state of mind to keep playing. He is devastated.”

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Spanish referees have the authority to stop a game if racial abuse is heard. However, after a 5-minute warmup, the Valencian players returned to the pitch without Diakhaby who was substituted by Hugo Guillamon. They continued to play the remainder of the first half with Cala still playing. However, he was later substituted at half-time.

Two first half goals were scored before the incident happened. The second half continued with Cadiz going on to score the winner. The final result was 2-1 to Cadiz.

We support you Mouctar

Valencia is expected to make a formal complaint after the game, either with the league or the Spanish football federation.  Sanctions could follow from there. The club issued a statement on social media backing its player: “WE SUPPORT YOU MOUCTAR.”

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In an official tweet from Cadiz FC, it said Juan Cala will speak to the media tomorrow (Tuesday) after the training session.

FIFPro expressed “serious concerns” about the incident and said it exposes the lack of protection for players in the face of discrimination.

“The situation in the match [Cadiz vs Valencia] raises serious concerns. We will be monitoring the situation around the match together with our colleagues from [Association of Spanish Footballers],” a statement published on Twitter read.

“Whilst a lot is yet to be investigated, the notion that pressure existed towards a team that responded in collective solidarity with a teammate. To continue a match under threat of sanction shows flaws in both the regulation and the response to anti-discrimination action.

“Tonight’s events show again that the protocols built to protect players in situations of discriminatory abuse are actually prioritising protection of the match. This is not only a failure of the system but can also further harm the individuals who are already impacted.”

European football governing body UEFA is also conducting an investigation into events at Glasgow Rangers following the game against Slavia Prague last month.

Incidents of racist abuse in English football are also rising.

As reported by the BBC, data shows one in 10 football matches in the 2019-20 season had an incident of  hate crime in England and Wales data gathered by the police, the FA and anti-discrimination campaigners has revealed. And the number of arrests for racist or indecent chanting more than doubled from 2018-19 to 2019-20 – from 14 to 35 – even though hundreds of matches during the second half of the season were cancelled or played behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

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