4 Apr, 2024 @ 10:25
3 mins read

WATCH: Is Spanish football racist? Outrage as latest incident sees black goalkeeper banned for confronting racist fans – and the Spanish press applauds 

THE attitudes of Spanish football are once again in the spotlight after the decision to ban a black player who confronted racist fans in the third division.

Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr jumped into the crowd to confront the spectators who had been abusing him during a match in Bilbao on Saturday March 30.

He launched himself over the hoarding and grabbed one fan by the scarf while other fans prodded at him and held him at bay.

Sarr’s teammates quickly rushed over to pull their comrade out of the fray as pandemonium broke out.

The referee then arrived to show the keeper a straight red card with the score poised at 2-1. 

In a sign of solidarity, his teammates refused to finish the game and walked off the pitch with him.

Among the insults he had had to tolerate were ‘eres un puto mono’ (you’re a f***ing monkey) and ‘corre, puto negro de mierda’ (run, you f***ing black s***).

“I grabbed him and asked him why he was insulting me,” Sarr said.

“My attitude was not aggressive, I just wanted to ask him why. It was something horrible.

“Other times it could be seen as something playful or a joke. 

“However, this was not the case on Saturday, as it was something horrible and I could not stop myself. It was a very sad and ugly thing what they were saying,” he added.

The match was between Sarr’s team, Rayo Majadahonda, from the outskirts of Madrid, and their rivals Sestao River Club in the Basque Country.

Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr

READ MORE: Spain will play Brazil in ‘anti-racism’ football friendly in support of abused Vinicius Jr

The Spanish authorities decided to ban Sarr for two matches and award his club a 3-0 defeat.

Meanwhile, their opponents were ordered to play their next two home games behind closed doors and fined an underwhelming €6,001.

Football daily Marca called it a ‘complex’ issue, weighing up the need to balance enforcing the code of conduct with ‘the understandable reaction of a human being being attacked and insulted because of the colour of his skin.

“Although not banning Sarr would have been a strong declaration, we can conclude that the presiding referee, Jose Alberto Pelaez, has shown sensitivity and his ruling can be considered a step forward in a battle that unites us all,” they wrote in their opinion column.

Overall, they concluded that the decision of the Primera Federacion authorities was a ‘step forward against racism,’ as the two-match sanction could have been far higher.

But the decision was met with outrage by social media users, who labelled it ‘shambolic, disgraceful, disgusting’ and ‘embarrassing.’

READ MORE: Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior says he is ‘losing desire to play football’ in Spain due to racist abuse

“Unfortunately, it’s just another day in the Spanish Football Federation, and one where the opportunity to actually stand up and support a player and his teammates against the inherent racism that is clearly visible in stadiums,” wrote one commentator.

“No one can gaslight me into believing that Spain is not a racist country and the entire Spanish football federation as it may be,” wrote another.

“A society that praises the racist and punishes the victim.”

A Spanish user wrote: “I am ashamed of this but not surprised – it is our national shame.”

The Federation argued that if they had decided to let Sarr off, it would have set a precedent that any player would be able to get away with going into the crowd.

The correct action in the event that a player is being racially abused is to alert the referee – something Sarr failed to do – who will take the appropriate action.

The Senegalese was wheeled out in a press conference the following Tuesday to plead his guilt to the assembled media.

“I regret my reaction and if it happens to me again tomorrow, I already know how to react,” Sarr said. 

But he defended himself, claiming that the referee was usually in the centre circle of the pitch and too far away for him to make a complaint.

“I wanted to go and speak with the referee,” the goalkeeper said.

“But with all the respect in the world, I think you should ask the victim first. After the game, a few hours later, we met to talk about what happened. I’m grateful.”

The incident is just one of many to dog Spanish football.

Last week, Real Madrid’s star winger, Vinicius Junior, admitted he is ‘losing the desire to play football’ thanks to repetitive racist abuse he has received whilst playing in Spain.

The player, who scored the winning goal in the 2022 UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool, was reduced to tears an emotional press conference as he reflected on the barrage of racist abuse he has faced since arriving in Spain in 2018.

Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]

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