Samuel Eto'o's threat to leave the pitch after suffering racial abuse from the crowd during Saturday's Primera División match between FC Barcelona and Real Zaragoza has put the issue of racism in Spanish football squarely back on the agenda.
'Insult to football'
"Everyone with Eto'o" read Mundo Deportivo's headline, adding, "When colour is more important than the shirt", while Marca stated that what Eto'o had endured at La Romareda was "an insult to football". The Spanish commission against racism (CECRA) has asked for all matches next weekend to kick off five minutes late as a sign of solidarity with the Barcelona striker. "It's not enough to display banners and show films against racism at our stadiums," CECRA general secretary Carlos Ferreyra Núñez said. "These incidents pose a serious threat which significantly limits the abused players' performance because it's humiliating and generates fear."
Zaragoza have pledged their full support for the campaign against racism in football. "In an attempt to defend sporting values and foster respect, Zaragoza will be a leader in Spanish football," the club said in a statement. "We will study the problems and if possible try to re-educate those people who have attitudes as despicable as those of the racists." Zaragoza criticised the fans who directed racial abuse at the Cameroon forward, who tried to leave the field in the second half but was persuaded to stay by players and his coach, Frank Rijkaard. After being asked by the referee, the club put out an announcement on the PA system asking supporters to refrain from making offensive remarks, but if anything the incident provoked more widespread abuse which continued until the end of the game, which Barcelona won 2-0.
'Racism is harmful'
"The club is energetically opposed to any type of racism that takes place in any football stadium," the statement added. "Racism is harmful and is far from an established norm in Zaragoza. We are a club who have traditionally had black players in our ranks at all levels, who have always been loved and supported by the fans. We cannot understand the racism of fans when we have players like Álvaro Maior, Ewerthon and Delio Toledo at our club. There is no justifiable provocation to attack a footballer for his race, religious or political beliefs, and we will do all we can to stop these incidents taking place in our stadium."
Eto'o's colleagues rallied in support. "If he had left, we would have gone with him," Ronaldinho said. "I'm very sad about this and I hope it never happens again." Ewerthon added: "I'm also black and play for Zaragoza and I'm totally against what the crowd did. I ask the federation to do something fast because we're here to work and if things carry on like this, it'll be impossible."
Zaragoza were fined €600 by the Spanish Football Federation last season after a section of their supporters directed abuse at Eto'o. Earlier this month the club were fined a similar amount after some fans racially insulted Real Betis Balompié's Brazilian attacker Robert. This latest incident comes just weeks after FARE's uniteagainstracism conference in Barcelona. "For one of the most accomplished black players in world football – voted African Footballer of the year – to be racially abused in one of the biggest leagues in the world is worrying for the game," Piara Powar, director of Kick It Out and a spokesperson for the FARE network, said.
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