Spanish FA sets up investigation into Aragones' remarks

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The Independent Online

The Spanish Football Association has opened a disciplinary file against Luis Aragones - but anti-racism campaigners expect the Spain coach to escape with a warning for his recent racist comments.

Official action was taken following the recommendations of Spain's Anti-Violence Commission, two months after Aragones sparked a race row when he was caught on camera making racist remarks about the Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. Aragones also spoke out about England's colonial past prior to Spain's match with Sven Goran Eriksson's side last month.

The Kick Racism Out of Football campaign believes the two-month wait for action to be taken shows the Spanish FA is not prepared to stamp out racism. Campaign officials want Aragones to be sacked but are not confident.

Piara Powar, the director of Kick It Out, said: "They've taken so long and their initial forthright defence suggests it will be a whitewash. We would be very surprised if there was anything other than a slap on the wrist. If they were serious then they would have done more by now. It does not take two months to start a formal investigation."

The friendly between England and Spain at the Bernabeu in Madrid was marred by racist chanting towards the visitors' black players. Since then, Uefa has investigated instances of racial abuse during Real Madrid's Champions' League tie with Bayer Leverkusen.

"Although we welcome any sort of process that examines his comments and what has taken place since the match at the Bernabeu, the Spanish Football Association have so far not given us any confidence of an objective investigation that will get to the root of the problem," Powar added.

Eriksson has recently argued that the match at the Bernabeu helped football acknowledge there is a problem. Powar believes the issue is more complex and there is still the problem of copycat racism.

"It does open up the field, but on the other hand there have been instances of mimicking racist behaviour," he added. "We are airing a public debate, but there are young people across the continent seeing more racism." Dwight Yorke, the Birmingham City striker, has been racially abused since England's friendly in Spain, with the offenders charged within days of the incident.

Despite the two-month wait since the row erupted Aragones is not surprised the Spanish FA decided to act. "I was expecting it," Aragones said, "because the president [Angel Maria Villar] told me it was going to happen. In a case like this everyone has the right to defend themselves."

The investigation, which is expected to take up to three months to complete, will look at whether Aragones breached the "conduct contrary to good order in sport". He could be fined £21,000 and have his coaching licence suspended.

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