I’ve witnessed it live. I see it weekly when matches are televised and fans gather to watch the games in bars.
I have often been left with the feeling that I have walked through a time tunnel, back to the 1970’s, when racist abuse was prevalent on the terraces of English football grounds.
One of the aspects of life in Spain expats notice (those not reading the Daily Mail) is how terribly racist this country can be. Indeed the British living in the country are lucky. When it comes to the roll call of ‘hate’ operated by some Spaniards, us so called ‘Guiri’s’ come down the pecking order.
Those who have risked their lives to sail to the coast of Spain from north Africa are top of the chart. Never mind that they will have been crammed on to a craft that is not fit to sail across the Mediterranean. Nor that they will have been on the seas for several cold nights.
The ‘lucky’ ones make it to shore, avoid arrest and end up selling dodgy CD’s or DVD’s on the streets. They make cents from their long, daily grind. A ‘Mr.Big’ takes the majority of their income.
The others who risk everything in search of a better life, well they die trying to get to Spain. Every month of every year, some poor souls will lose their lives at sea and, very often, nobody will ever know what became of them.
Next up on the ‘hate’ list come Moroccans and Gypsies. In either order, depending how far south in Spain you are.
But racism is a problem all over Spain and, of course, a football ground full of people is the perfect hiding place for a racist.
Like the one who threw a banana at Barcelona player Daniel Alves. His response was perfect and has been heralded around the world. He picked up the banana and ate it!
In the past Alves, who has forever been the subject of racist chants, has labelled racism in Spain as “the lost war” and said Sunday that “we are not going to change things easily.”
I agree with him.
He said: “I’ve been living in Spain for eleven years, and for eleven years I’ve been laughing at these retards. I don’t know who threw the banana, but I’d want to thank him. It gave me energy to give two more crosses that ended up in goal.
“We have suffered this in Spain for some time. You have to take it with a dose of humour. If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”
I get where Alves is coming from and I’m glad his reaction has received such widespread applause.
But it is important.I recall one night in a bar when a famous black player was playing for Barcelona against Real Madrid. A Madrid supporting man from my village spent the evening with his red, angry face almost through the TV screen. He hurled abuse at the player and spat at the screen each time there was a close up of the player.
The irony was that this player, Samuel Eto’o, had not long before played for his Real Madrid team and was something of a hero.
“You hate him because he signed for Barcelona?” came the query from a Spanish friend.
“No, I hated him when he played for us. He’s a black monkey and he should be in a zoo”, came the reply.
Is that chap a one off? An exception to the rule, perhaps.
Not a bit of it.
Spain is country in which many people, including that fella, would welcome General Franco back to power tomorrow.
It is a country whose national football team was managed for four years by a Franco supporting racist.
Times are changing. Things have improved a little in the ten years I have lived here.
But there’s a long, long way to go before the layers of racism within Spain, including on its football terraces, are peeled away and the game is able to say:”Yes, we have no bananas!