The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – hosts of a keynote European anti-racism conference in Barcelona – considers the 1 February event an important milestone in its own campaign to rid football of intolerance and discrimination.
The Unite Against Racism conference, at the Camp Nou stadium, is being organised by UEFA in co-operation with the Football Against Racism in Europe network and the RFEF, in conjunction with FC Barcelona. Around 200 people, including star players, football personalities, Spanish politicians and delegates from UEFA's 52 member associations, are invited to the event, which follows on from a successful conference held at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC, in spring 2003.
No effort spared in Spain
"The Spanish Football Federation has always strived for a more honourable sport, free from violence and inequalities," said RFEF president and UEFA and FIFA vice-president Ángel María Villar Llona. "Our aim is to eradicate racism, xenophobia and bad behaviour from the football pitch, and we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
No room for xenophobia
"When we consider that our teams play host to players of different colours and from different countries and ethnic groups, it is quite clear that there is no room for racism, xenophobia or intolerance in Spanish football," Villar added. "For this very reason the Spanish Football Federation has already adopted and will continue to adopt measures aimed at combating and freeing our stadiums from any attitudes and behaviour that run contrary to human dignity."
The RFEF has introduced initiatives aimed at tackling discrimination in football at international matches, and has also signed a response protocol with the Consejo Superior de Deportes (Supreme Sporting Committee), as well as with various sectors of the Spanish footballing world. This protocol was put into effect during last season's league championship.
"The skin colour, origin or nationality of footballers can no longer be cause for mockery and taunts from a small handful of individuals who are, unfortunately, responsible for bringing utterly intolerable attitudes into the game and who prevent the vast majority of supporters from enjoying their football," said Villar.
The RFEF president reflected how, in the last 20 years, considerable numbers of immigrants have come to Spain and the rest of Europe, to find better living and working conditions. "These people have left everything behind in order to enjoy the living conditions that their respective countries were unable to offer them," Villar explained. "Regrettably, as they have gradually become more and more part of our society, we have witnessed a simultaneous outbreak in racist behaviour.
Football – a social reality
"And what is my point? It's easy. Football is the most popular sport in the world. Both on the pitch and in the stands, football has the power to unite the poor and the wealthy, people of all colours, people from different cultural standings, those with different religious creeds or conflicting political beliefs. Football is no longer a social phenomenon but rather a social reality.
'Hurtful and troubling'
"Football reflects society itself," Villar continued. "And yet our stadiums have seen the arrival of attitudes, behaviour and movements targeted against black footballers that are insulting to genuine lovers of the sport. Although we are, together with the fans, players and clubs, fighting to eradicate this kind of behaviour, I still find it deeply hurtful and troubling. We cannot let our guard down.
We must press on with our fight as we also work to educate young children."
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