Here at Rumors and Rants, we’ve chronicled the Spanish people’s affinity for racism and bigotry following the men’s basketball team’s creative photo op poking fun at their gracious Olympic hosts, the Chinese.
Well, it seems the Spanish are at it again.
For its next two home Champions League games, Spanish giants Atletico Madrid will not be able to play at its own stadium.
UEFA, the sport’s European governing body, levied its heaviest punishment to date in banning Atletico Madrid from playing at the Vicente Calderon Stadium because of the club’s fans’ racist actions during last month’s match between Atletico and Marseille, of France’s Ligue 1.
Monkey chants were aimed at Marseille’s black players, insults were directed toward black journalists inside the press box and the team bus was attacked by Madrid supporters following the match.
Atletico Madrid’s coach Javier Aguirre also received a two-game ban for repeatedly swearing at Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, calling him a “son of a whore.”
The Spanish club was fined 150,000 euros and will have to play games against Liverpool (Oct. 22) and PSV Eindhoven (Nov. 26) at least 300 kilometers outside of Madrid.
UEFA added that if there is another racist outburst in the next five years, more matches will be moved.
The home ban means soccer’s current golden boy Fernando Torres will miss out on a return to the Vicente Calderon Stadium, where he made his name playing for Atletico Madrid before joining Liverpool last summer.
In an online poll by Spanish newspaper Marca, 62.67 percent of readers thought the ban was unjustified while 37.36 percent thought it was fair.
Atletico Madrid’s response: “When we have all the details ready, we will make a public statement. We are going to defend Atletico Madrid as we have always done because logic is on our side. We also have the full backing of the Spanish Football Federation.”
That’s the same Spanish Football Federation who rewarded national team coach Luis Aragones (right) with a new contract even after he was caught on tape calling France’s Thierry Henry “a black shit,” during a training session.
Racism has become an increasing problem in soccer (the U.S. isn’t immune either as a Houston Dynamo fan racially abused D.C. United goalie Louis Crayton last week).
Last month, the English national team played in Croatia and a number of their players were targets of racist chants. England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand challenged UEFA and FIFA to do more to eradicate racism from the game and said he was disappointed by the decision to just levy a 15,000 pound fine on the Croatian Football Federation.
“They make a lot of comments about what they are going to do, but they never back up the words with action,” Ferdinand said. “Croatia were fined a few thousand quid. What good is that going to do”
Last week, the English Football Association said it will refuse to let its national team play in Madrid when they take on Spain in a February friendly because of past racist incidents, including in 2004 when a number of English players were targets of racist chants.
While most of the Spanish media have called the ban cruel and without merit, Alfredo Relano, who writes for the Madrid sports daily AS, has perhaps conceded that Spanish soccer fans might not be all that innocent.
“Are we racists? Perhaps we are, without being aware of it.”
Sounds a lot like Spanish sports writer Jamie Martin’s defense of Spanish fans who painted themselves black at a Formula 1 race earlier this year wearing shirts that read “Hamilton’s Family,” in reference to Lewis Hamilton, a black British driver.
Martin wrote that the fans’ abuse had more to do with Hamilton’s budding rivalry with Spain’s Fernando Alonso than his skin color. “It’s certain that the insults were racist, but if Lewis was bald the insults would have related to baldness.”
Step 1: Admit you have a problem.
Step 2: Apologize.