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Racism in society, racism in football

AS AS 07/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

The cracking end to the League we’re currently enjoying has been marred by two racist episodes that shouldn’t have surprised us. It’s nothing new. Every black player has suffered it. And the argument, “we’re not racist, if we were we wouldn’t have black players on our team”, I think needs to be called into question. A side’s own players are always looked on kindly no matter what. They aren’t called ‘assassin’ for constant fouling [a common insult in Spain], as a rival player would be. If a player is fat or bald or old, their own fans don’t get on their back about it, as they would for opposing players. They don’t call their own players ‘cabrón’ [usually translated as bastard or scum-bag, though literally means a man whose wife is cheating on him] for time-wasting. A team’s own players are supported.

But opposing players are attacked for what people see as the worst in them. ‘Fatty’, ‘old fogey’ or ‘baldie’ is shouted because it’s understood that for a footballer it’s worse to be that, than not to be. Or if ‘cabrón’ is shouted it’s because the word (and the act of being cuckolded) is understood to be insulting. All of this, and similar abuse (such as ‘maricón’ [literally ‘poof’] with its direct overtones of homophobia), is downright wrong. And if a black player is attacked, whether with monkey chants or hurled bananas, what’s being indicated is contempt for the colour of their skin; that they are more monkey than person. And that is unequivocally racism. And it happens a lot, a terrifying amount.

It happens a lot and it happens everywhere and it’s ridiculous not to recognise that fact. In lots of places there are minorities, though made up of lots of individuals, that are mistreated by society, thereby revealing that society's own flaws, for example here in Spain people say ‘judiada’ [literally ‘a Jewish act’] for an act of treachery, they say ‘to cheat like a Chinese person’, ‘to work like a black man’, they call a man who is overly jealous a ‘moor’, and immigrants from South America are called ‘panchitos’ (one of several terms of abuse for individuals who hail from that part of the world). Or they sing ‘the Retiro is Spanish, it’s not a park in Ecuador’. [The Retiro Park is in central Madrid.] There is still so much of this about. And no, it’s not just a football thing. But as football is televised it’s noticed more there. But it’s in society, still, and it’s in us. It’s called racism.

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