Spain under pressure to combat racism

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The Independent Online

The Spanish football authorities are coming under increasing pressure to deal with the growing problem of racism. The abuse of black England players in Tuesday's Under-21 international was the latest example of a trend which anti-racism campaigners in Spain believe has been gathering pace since the 1990s.

The Spanish football authorities are coming under increasing pressure to deal with the growing problem of racism. The abuse of black England players in Tuesday's Under-21 international was the latest example of a trend which anti-racism campaigners in Spain believe has been gathering pace since the 1990s.

The Football Association will write to football's world and European governing bodies to complain about the racist chanting directed against Carlton Cole, Darren Bent and Glen Johnson during the game. Geoff Thompson, the FA chairman, was due to speak to his Spanish counterpart before last night's full international here to express the FA's concerns.

The Spanish federation, which denied that there had been any evidence of racist chanting or behaviour at the game, could face disciplinary action from Fifa, the game's world governing body, which said that any complaints would be "set against the background of Fifa's code of conduct".

Tuesday night's incidents followed an angry confrontation earlier that day between Luis Aragones, the Spanish national coach, and English journalists, who had questioned him about his description of Arsenal's Thierry Henry as "black shit" when he was trying to motivate his club colleague, Jose Antonio Reyes, during a Spain training session last month. Aragones insisted he was not a racist and then railed against Britain's colonial history.

Two years ago Liverpool's Emile Heskey and El Hadji Diouf were the subject of racist abuse from the crowd during a Champions' League match in Valencia, while Patrick Vieira, the Arsenal captain, complained of similar treatment in the same stadium last year.

Carlos Ferreyra Nunez, the general secretary of Cecra, a Spanish anti-racism organisation, said yesterday that there had been a growing number of racist incidents. "In the last five minutes of a recent Real Madrid game there was a barrage of insults and monkey chants directed against Roberto Carlos by some Real Madrid supporters," he said. "There has been monkey chanting at Barcelona. It happened a couple of months ago and last year. Black players suffer the problem but not many of them are prepared to speak publicly about it. They're worried that they will suffer if they speak out."

Ivan Hurtado, a black Ecuadorean player with Murcia, is one of the few who have spoken out. He attended the opening of a campaign against racism in Spanish football organised by Cecra earlier this year. However, progress is slow. "In July we put forward proposals to create a commission to look at how to deal with racism in Spanish football," Nunez said. "We're still waiting for it to happen."

Racism, according to Nunez, is a problem at all levels of the game. There have been incidents at lower division clubs and Nunez said the European Commission had recently written to the Spanish federation about a rule which prevents non-Spaniards playing in national competitions at amateur level.

Nunez said that recent police figures showed that 32,000 people belong to ultra right-wing skinhead organisations in Spain. "Nearly all of them target football," he said. "They get enormous TV coverage. The whole country can see their flags and hear their monkey chants. It's also a very good place for them to recruit young members, particularly among the unemployed."

Cecra has been in discussions with the Spanish federation for two months over plans to publicise its campaign at last night's full international here. Nunez said that only two of the organisation's 12 proposals had been accepted. A Uefa anti-racism video was due to be show at the game, while the teams were scheduled to take the field carrying flags with the slogan "all united against racism in football".

Nunez believes that Spain is dragging its feet in comparison with the game in Britain, where the anti-racism group Kick It Out works closely with the authorities.

Leon Mann, a spokesman for the organisation, said yesterday that the plan for England players to wear anti-racism T-shirts at Tuesday night's training session had been an FA initiative.

"The trouble is that nobody in authority here accepts that racism is a problem in Spain," Nunez said. "They think that to speak about racism is to bring it into football. Nobody monitors it and there are no statistics available, but it is a major problem in Spain, both in football and in the country generally. If you talk to any black person in this country they will tell you that racism is a serious problem here."

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