Racism in Spain no barrier for Henry

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The Independent Football

With his contract ending in 2007 and having stalled on extension talks, the Gunners' record striker has been strongly linked with a transfer to Barcelona next year but said that despite the problem of racism in football in Spain, it would not stop him going there.

Henry was speaking at a Kick Racism out of Football forum at Highbury and explained that he had faced this issue before but did not let it change his mind, saying he does not want the game to suffer.

The France international, who is a passionate backer of the Kick Racism Out campaign, moved from Monaco to Juventus in 1998 despite being forewarned of racism in Italy.

However, when asked whether the racism issue would prevent him going to Spain he said: "I will answer that easily. Before I went to Italy, Lilian Thuram and a lot of coloured players had trouble there. I still signed for Juve."

Henry added: "The game shouldn't suffer. That's my way of seeing it. That's why I said that when England didn't come off the pitch against Spain I thought it was a good thing. You shouldn't let the game down because of ignorant people."

A year ago, the Spain coach, Luis Aragones, made a racist remark about Henry to his Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes. Then in November, England's black players, including Henry's team-mate Ashley Cole, suffered racial abuse during the friendly against Spain in Madrid.

Aragones was fined by his own football association but Henry does not feel that is the best way to punish racism in the game.

Henry became Arsenal's top goalscorer when playing Sparta Prague last week in the Champions' League but the stadium was not full because of a partial ban by Uefa after previous racist abuse by Sparta fans.

And Henry feels that is the way to tackle a problem he admits he has faced before and which has made him consider retaliating 1000 times.

"I was in Prague last week and wondered why the stadium was so empty and then someone explained it was because Sparta fans had been racist the week before against Ajax. I thought it was tremendous. That's what you should do. It is sad but sometimes you have to do that, he said.

"Uefa did something great in Prague. That was a great example: the game can still be played even if it is tough on the people who cannot make it to the stadium. The game has been played and the points were there and at the end of the day nothing did affect the game. But I'm sure the fans who stayed at home were gutted because they did not see their team play.

"When we players don't behave on the pitch we get a red card. But when other people are misbehaving they are still there. That can be a way forward. Some fans might miss out on the game who are not racist but that's the way it is. That is one way to go forward.

Regarding fines he added: "You have to go straight to the problem. As a fan you might say the club's going to get a big fine but it's not affecting you because the club can deal with it.

"But if you say to the guy, 'you cannot go to the stadium any more,' he will think twice about it next time."

And Henry believes that if racism inside football stadiums in England flared up it is a measure that could be applied here. He said: "Look in Italy. There is violence from the fans and they shut the stadium down, and it happened in France at the weekend with Bastia and also last season with Paris St-Germain because of the violence of the fans. I think you can do that with racism as well and Uefa did something great in Prague."