“Rage?” Lilian Thuram wonders. “Nerd. Racism is much worse than anger. Racism is humiliation ”. The former soccer player moved with his family from Guadalupe to Paris when he was nine years old. Quickly he understood that something was wrong: “At school they made me feel a worse person because of the color of my skin.” In 2008, when he was still a Barcelona player, he created a foundation that bears his name, for education and tolerance in football. Since then, the player with the most presence of matches in the history of the French national team (142), has become a benchmark in the fight against racism. “The history of racism is the history of injustice. And the institutions, many times, do not want to see that reality because it implies changing things, because it implies saying that things are not right. And that undermines the football business. Nobody is going to buy a product that does not work well. So, those who sell it prefer to look the other way ”.
The Professional Football League has a match director at each meeting who is in charge of preparing a report that includes all the incidents that arise. “Possible evidence of what happened must be identified and compiled through all the supports available in La Liga and, if pertinent, a complaint is filed with both the Competition Committee of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the Commission. Anti-violence ”, explain sources from the employer’s association.
Last Sunday, April 4, something unprecedented happened in Spanish football: the Valencia players left the field after an alleged racist insult from Cala, a Cádiz player, to the Valencian player Diakhaby. “It is interesting what happened. Cala says she did not insult him while Diakhaby says yes. Historically, when someone is accused of racism they deny having committed it. And, when it comes to a black person, it’s easier to say it’s not true. Diakhaby is not crazy, if he reacts that way it is because he felt humiliated ”, explains Thuram.
The game was interrupted for 25 minutes until the Valencia players decided to return to the field. “The referee did not listen to him, therefore he cannot act. There is no protocol for these types of situations. And the game was already completely prostituted: there were two players who were mentally out of the game “, explains Eduardo Iturralde González, who was a First referee between 1995 and 2012.” It is the word of one player against that of the other, “the doctor intervenes. in Humanities Salva Moya, expert on racism. And he adds: “In the case of racist chants from the stands it is clear how to act. First it is warned from the public address system. If they continue, the game stops and, finally, if nothing changes, it is suspended. In a situation like the one experienced in Cádiz, there is no clear protocol ”.
“Does the referee really have to suspend the game because a player says they have insulted him if he did not listen?” The entity has the Integrity Department, which acts when alleged infractions are committed. If he considers it necessary, he submits a complaint to the Competition Committee (First and Second), which evaluates whether the opening of a file is appropriate. This is when an instructor is appointed to investigate what happened. “From the side of the Federation it is clear: you have to report that something happened. Either the Integrity Committee does it or the stakeholder does it. In this case, Valencia filed a complaint and now the facts have to be proven, “added the same sources. The Federation continues with its investigation process.
LaLiga, on the other hand, already has its verdict. “After analyzing the elements, it is concluded that no evidence has been found in any of the media available in La Liga that the player Juan Torres Ruiz (Juan Cala) insulted Mouctar Diakhaby in the terms reported,” the LFP reported last Monday, in a statement. The employer’s report, in any case, has no legal validity. And the Valencia player is not satisfied: “I intend to reach the end of this story, in the sense that I am not crazy to stop during a game, leave the field and create a false controversy,” Diakhaby replied. “I don’t know Juan Cala personally. I cannot allow myself to say that he is racist. But that day he made racist comments and that is why I want him to be punished. They do not want to eradicate racism because they do not sanction the protagonists. And I do not want to say that they are accomplices, but it is true that it is not sanctioned ”, complained the French footballer.
For Thuram it is a problem of deafness, an uncomfortable indifference to the institutions. “You have to listen to people who suffer from racism. I am convinced that many times people who say a racist comment do so without thinking. The problem is that when they think it is too late. And there is something very serious: as usual, it is thought that it has to be assumed. You have to think: ‘Nothing happens, it’s normal.’ And sometimes you even accept it, ”explains the 1998 world champion.
“There is a theory that there are people who are not racist, but they say racist comments. “We insult only to destabilize the rival,” they say. That theory is shattered when there are hobbies that insult their own players. This issue cannot be trivialized ”, analyzes the expert Salva Moya. Brazilian Cacau, a German national, worked as an Integration Commissioner for the German Football Association (DFB). “It seems that it is a normal situation to provoke a rival. You cannot translate rivalry into racist insults ”, explains the ex-footballer, who played 12 games with the Mannschaft between 2009 and 2012. Something paradoxical happened to Cacau. “In Brazil, I suffered discrimination and, in part, also racism. When I arrived in Germany, many people warned me about it and told me how dangerous and difficult the subject of racism was in Germany. But here I have lived the opposite ”, he says.
Thuram, on the other hand, remembers several racist episodes. “I had coaches who said that black goalkeepers always ended up making a mistake or that black defenders didn’t stay focused the whole game. Others who told me that blacks were lazy, ”he recalls. And he explains that, in Italy, he was discriminated against by a rival: “A colleague had to intervene. I did not leave the field. But now, luckily, there is a generation of players who do not accept that anymore. When the fans insult you, intellectually you can understand what is happening; when a colleague does it, it is traumatizing, ”the Frenchman emphasizes.
In Spain, there was a turning point in 2005. Samuel Eto’o, a Cameroonian footballer for Barcelona, threatened to leave La Romareda after receiving racist insults from the Zaragoza fans. “That gesture did the trick. The government began to take it seriously ”, explains Salva Moya. A year earlier, in 2004, the Observatory of Violence, Racism and Intolerance in Sports had been created, as a result of Luis Aragonés’ phrase to José Antonio Reyes about Henry: “Tell that black man that you are better.” The president of the Observatory was Javier Durán, doctor in Sports Sociology, and was made up of members of the Higher Sports Council, the Federation, the League, the Players Union, the College of Referees and United Hobbies. “The Eto’o thing gave a lot of strength. This group was the one that demanded and promoted the law ”, explains Estaban Ibarra, a member of the Observatory. In 2007, the Law against Violence, Racism and Intolerance in Sport was passed. “Everything is in that Law. The problem is that it is not fulfilled and that the observatory stopped meeting ”, concludes Ibarra.
Can Diakhaby’s case set a precedent like Eto’o’s did? “It is premature to make evaluations of this type when the file is still open, especially after the investigation that we opened in LaLiga to identify possible evidence has been closed without there being any verification that the denounced event has occurred,” respond sources from the patronal. “England is a mirror to look at”, reflects Salva Moya; “They are not smarter or better people. The problem came to them before and before they began to fight it ”.
“Work with Kick it out (association that is in charge of controlling racial issues in the world of football) has made great progress in the fight against racism through a variety of initiatives and club associations ”, says Richard Masters, executive director of the Premier. In 2019, the English league launched the campaign No room for racism to insist on their commitment to stop discrimination. And he never hung out with little girls. In 2020, the president of the English Football Association (FA), Greg Clarke, had to resign for using the term “people of color” in reference to blacks.
“My experience in England was very bad,” reacts Kiko Casilla, sanctioned in 2020 with eight games and a 70,000 euro fine for an alleged racist insult to Jonathan Leko, during a game between his team, Leeds, and Charlton. “It seemed that there was no presumption of innocence. They accused me of saying a word that I didn’t even know existed [nigger]. During the six months that the process lasted, which ended with a trial at Wembley, it was very hard what I had to live both in the stadiums and because of what I read in the press and on social networks. They asked even the fans in the stands for videos and they couldn’t prove anything. They wanted to use me as a scapegoat to exemplify ”, explains the Madrid exporter. “The FA has based its decision on probability rather than proving that it is guilty beyond any doubt. We always think that the burden of proof is the most appropriate, “said Leeds, once the sanction was effective.
“It seemed as if they wanted to humiliate me. It seemed they wanted me to have insulted him ”, says Casilla, who always had as an idol and mentor the Cameroonian Thomas N’Kono, Espanyol goalkeeping coach. “You also have to highlight everything they do. Regarding the Spanish league, the Premier has everything much more controlled and monitored. There are many campaigns that I think the players favor us. The problem is when common sense is not used. Look what happened with Cavani ”, insists the Catalan. The Uruguayan striker was sanctioned with three games and a fine of 135,000 euros for replying with a “thank you, black” message on Instagram. “Any user of our language in this part of the world understands that this word, used in the context that gave rise to the punitive measure, has a clear affective meaning, completely free of any discriminatory or racist nuance,” defended Cavani the Argentine Academy of Letters.
“In the fight against racism, I prefer to sin by excess than by default. It is a daily combat and forever ”, concludes Salva Moya, who wrote the book Without Hate. From A to Z: Racism and other discrimination in football (Red Circle, 2019). “In Germany, the league, the players and the clubs are very sensitized so that these things do not happen anymore. And that’s how it should be. Talk about the issue, campaign and fight racism in all parts of society ”, intervenes Cacau.
Does Spanish football have a pending account with racism? “LaLiga, as part of the society to which it belongs, is aware that it must continue working at all levels and with all representative bodies of our sport in order to do everything necessary to protect the values of equality and respect that they prevail in our Spanish professional football competition ”, the employers respond. And they list their projects: Future hobby (to promote positive values), Fan Manual (distributed in the stadiums at the beginning of the season and tries to remember good practices and values on the field) or Player Manual (given to the footballers to eradicate hateful behavior).
“The people who have to make decisions do not understand the violence of racism. He does not understand what people who are victims of racism suffer. There are not enough two manuals that nobody reads and two talks at the beginning of the season in which no player pays attention ”, analyzes Thuram. And he concludes: “Until matches are suspended, there will be no definitive step.” Iturralde González agrees with Thuram: “Big problems, big solutions. Soccer is not above all ”.