Barcelona defender Dani Alves offered a frank assessment of racism in Spanish soccer stadiums during a press conference on Thursday after the previous night’s 1-1 King’s Cup tie between his team and Real Madrid in the Bernabéu.
“There are things that lots of people think but don’t want to talk about, but I will because I don’t owe anything to anybody and I will say what I want. I didn’t think about leaving the pitch, but it’s harassment. It doesn’t only happen at the Bernabéu, but at all the stadiums we go to. People are fighting to see this doesn’t happen but it keeps happening. It’s a shame. Racism in football is a battle that’s lost, until drastic measures are taken.”
“I’ve been in Spain for 10 years and it’s still happening. This isn’t one of the places I feel most like a victim; there are worse. It happens in general all over Spain. I experienced it with Sevilla. But until measures are taken, nothing will be fixed. There is no courtesy in Spanish stadiums.”
Alves has previously described racism in Spanish soccer as “uncontrollable,” and the country’s federation was fined by Uefa after Italy striker Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist chants by Spanish fans at Euro 2012. The incident added to other high-profile cases such as that of Luis Aragonés, the former national team coach, referring to Thierry Henry as a “black shit” during a training session in 2004. Sustained monkey chants aimed at black players representing England in a friendly against Spain in the Bernabéu the same year were blamed on Aragonés’ remark.
Last year, after the Uefa sanction, current Spanish Football Association president Ángel María Villar brushed aside questions on the problem. “There is no racism in Spanish soccer,” he said.
AC Milan set a precedent in a friendly match against Pro Patria in January by leaving the pitch after racist abuse was aimed at Kevin Prince-Boateng by a small section of the Italian fourth-division team’s supporters.
Sevilla, playing against Atlético Madrid in the second King’s Cup semifinal on Thursday night, announced it would abandon the game if Atlético fans repeated offensive chants about Antonio Puerta, who died after suffering an on-field heart attack in 2007.