Action against football racism 'wishful thinking'

22nd March 2006, Comments 0 comments

22 March 2006, MADRID — The Spanish Ombudsman condemned the official response to persistent incidents of racism in Spanish football, saying it has been little more wishful thinking.

22 March 2006

MADRID — The Spanish Ombudsman condemned the official response to persistent incidents of racism in Spanish football, saying it has been little more wishful thinking.

In report to the Spanish parliament, the Ombudsman called for more determined action against the growing number of xenophobic skinheads amongst football fans.

Defender of the People Enrique Mujica told the Spanish deputies they must use "greater strictness and severity in dealing with violent hooligans, racists and those who aid and abet them".

He said his agency will take official action against racist behaviour in the sport.

Mujica, who appeared before the mixed Congress-Senate commission, acknowledged  the Defender of the People should "correct his own insufficient presence in the fight against racism and violence in sports".

"If no complaints are filed we will proceed in our own official capacity, and when we are told that these degenerates are causing disturbances in the sport we will go to the competent authorities to see to what extent they will intervene and correct this conduct," he said.

Mujica said educational reform should be integrated into the fight against violence, racism and xenophobia, as part of the new content of citizens' education, and asked the sports media to be "forceful and categorical in repudiating acts like these".

So-callled monkey chants have been directed at black players in Spanish football in recent years.

"Something has to change when a soccer match becomes a high-risk activity," Mujica said, and expressed his condemnation for "the abnormal spectacle of offensive, insulting banners with xenophobic words and symbols displayed in soccer stadiums with total impunity".

Mujica said racist incidents occurred in football more than any other sport because of the presence of "ultra groups" of hooligans.

He said the Spanish Football Federation must not only fine the offending clubs, but should apply other sanctions such as the loss of league points, as provided for in a bill approved last week by the cabinet.

"In April of '92 the first police survey of hooligans confirmed the existence of skinheads in nine of the existing 38 ultra groups. Infiltration has now reached 90 percent. The government needs to take action to end the apparent impunity of these radical fans," Mujica said.

After reviewing the changes in regulations applied in Spain since the Sports Law of 1990 was passed, he questioned the effectiveness of its provisions and said that "the situation, far from improving, seems to be getting worse".

"These are good intentions but no more than that," he said after expressing his rejection of the way last month's Zaragoza-Barcelona incidents were dealt with by the Federation.

FC Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o threatened to walk off after being subjected to racist taunts throughout the game, which his team won 0-2.

"A purely monetary fine of EUR 9,000 is far from being a deterrent, and I sincerely doubt that something like that will daunt these hooligans," he said.

Present at the discussion was Abuy Nfubeam, president of the Federation of Black Pan-African Communities in Spain, an organization which held a lunch in honour of the Barcelona club's soccer player from Cameroon, Samuel Eto'o.

Eto'o, a star who has been the object of racist taunts from fans, called for "exemplary sanctions" in order to rid stadiums of xenophobia.

Eto'o scoffed at the EUR 9,000 fine imposed on the home team.

"The club cannot control them (the fans). We have to look for solutions among us all, and let's see what the courts can do," said Eto'o, considered Africa's best player.

He noted that it was the second straight year he has been subjected to abuse at Zaragoza stadium. And he underscored that discrimination based on skin-colour is not limited to sport.

A year ago, football federations approved the Protocol of Action against Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance, which sets out 31 measures for dealing with this problem on three levels: sensitivity, identifying those responsible and imposing more serious penalties.

The head of Spanish football's governing body pledged in January that every effort would be made to keep intolerance and xenophobia out of the national pastime.

"The (Spanish soccer federation) has always strived for a more honourable sport, free from violence and inequalities. Our aim is to eradicate racism, xenophobia and bad behavior, and we will spare no effort to achieve this goal," federation chief Angel Maria Villar said in a statement.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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