Expatica news

Anger at Atletico Madrid stadium ban

15 October 2008

MADRID — Spanish football fans were angry on Tuesday as racism in the game made the headlines.

The English Football Association does not want to play against Spain in a planned February match in Real Madrid’s Estadio Bernabeu because of the racist taunts against England’s black players there in a 2004 match.

In addition, the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) ruled that Atletico Madrid must play their next two Champions League home matches – against Liverpool on 22 October and against PSV Eindhoven on 26 November – at least 300 kilometres from Madrid.

The punishment comes after serious crowd trouble at the 1 October match between Atletico and Olympique Marseille. Spanish police made around 30 arrests and Marseille’s black players were racially taunted in the Estadio Calderon.

UEFA fined Atletico for EUR 150,000 and Atletico coach Javier Aguirre was banned for two matches for abusing Marseille players.

The ban was front page news in Marca on Tuesday, with the sports paper saying the sanction "seems rather harsh".

Marca said it would be "very cruel" to keep Atletico fans from paying tribute to former player Fernando Torres, now starring for Liverpool.

Atletico, in the Champions League for the first time since 1997, are top of Group D after winning their first two matches, 2-1 against Marseille and 3-0 in Eindhoven.

An online poll conducted by Marca showed on Tuesday that 62.67 percent of readers consider the ban unjustified, though 37.36 percent think it is fair.

Another online Marca poll said that 63.36 percent of its readers believe that the Spanish federation should cancel the February friendly if the English FA confirms its refusal to play in the Bernabeu. The FA said on Monday it would prefer a different venue.

Alfredo Relano, editor of Madrid sports daily AS, said that the Spanish federation should not propose an alternative venue if the FA refuses to play at the Bernabeu.

He also said, however, that Spanish football might have a problem with racism, something that almost no other Spanish media stated.

"Are we racists?" asks Relano. "Perhaps we are, without being aware of it".

[Dpa / Expatica]