Another racism row flared up during the Seville derby on Sunday evening as ‘supporters’ (a loosely used term) of Betis turned on their own player, Paulao, apparently racially abusing the Brazilian centre-back. It is not the first time racism has been seen in Spanish football and it has been happening without sufficient punishment for too long. The incident at Betis needs to be Spain’s watershed moment and the country should rally and appreciate that the issue of racism in football has to be addressed.
The incident was caught on camera and broadcast to multiple countries around the world and has led to FIFA President Sepp Blatter stepping in. Blatter, unusually firm on such issues, has condemned the actions of the Betis fans and called for tougher sanctions to be implemented at the next FIFA congress.
Using his official twitter account, Blatter said he was ‘sickened’ by the actions of the fans and claimed it was now time for tougher punishments. He continued by saying that it was the responsibility of ALL competition organisers and that racism cannot be fought off by fines.
At long last it appears Blatter has come to his senses on the racism issue which should strike the unmoved LFP into action. Spain’s governing body for football has yet to comment on the actions at Betis and will surely come under fire following Blatter’s involvement. The lack of a statement to even acknowledge the incident took place makes racism in Spain look blasé and themselves appear arrogant.
Sadly, this isn’t even the first racial controversy of the month in Spain! Two Elche fans were given €4,000 fines for racially abusing Granada player Allan-Romeo Nyom at the beginning of November, an incident the LFP again failed to address. Even though the club and match officials dealt with the incident well at the time, the topic of racial discrimination does not fade away as the final whistle blows.
Following the game, Betis released a statement on their twitter account confirming that they ‘condemn any act of violence or racism whether it is against one of our own players or one of an opponent”.
However, this is not the first time Betis’ fans have turned on one of their own. In the derby last season Nosa was fined for making a gesture to the crowd after scoring the equaliser against Sevilla in the 3-3 draw. Nosa explained that his middle-fingered salute was born out of frustration at the racial abuse he received from a few mindless fans. This most recent incident reveals that clubs across Spain need to tackle the issue of racism instead of posting a tweet.
Spain is in no way a racist country but racism in its football grounds is a huge issue and whilst the LFP remain silent, it is a problem which will continue to hang over Spanish football.
Sepp Blatter came to his senses by realising that ‘handshakes and fines’ are not ways of dealing with racism, now is the time for LFP President Javier Tebas to stand up too.
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