Analysis: racism back in Spanish sport

It is not the first time that the spectre of racism has visited Spanish sport and the abuse directed at British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton shows the country is still struggling to come to terms with the issue

Analysis: racism back in Spanish sport

The insults made by spectators at the Circuit de Catalunya to Hamilton at the weekend were reminiscent of similar incidents that have marred Spanish sport in recent years.

National soccer coach Luis Aragones hit the headlines just over three years ago for derogatory comments about French player Thierry Henry although he has always denied they were racist.

Large-scale racist abuse against visiting black players took place at a subsequent friendly international against England, while monkey chanting and racial insults went on to become frequent at matches.

Two seasons ago, fed up with the abuse, Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o even threatened to walk off the pitch after being racially insulted by fans in a match against Real Zaragoza.

When the first incidents occurred the initial reaction of sporting authorities was to try to sweep them under the carpet.

But negative media coverage from abroad, particularly in the wake of Madrid's unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympics, and the intervention of international federations meant the issue began to be taken more seriously.

The Spanish government moved to introduce a new law dealing with racism and xenophobia while football authorities and many clubs have backed initiatives to combat the problem.

Although many official institutions have become more sensitive to the issue, there has also been a backlash amongst some sections of the media and the public against what they see as an imposition of political correctness.

Many Spaniards fiercely deny racism is a major problem and point instead to what they see as hypocrisy from British media and politicians who condemn them but fail to see that the behaviour of many of their soccer fans is often tinged with xenophobia when they visit Spain.

They say that sportsmen like Hamilton and Eto'o are being insulted because they are rivals and not because of their race and that the use of the word "black" is merely descriptive.

A quick glance, however, at the web page of the country's best selling paper, the sports daily Marca, reveals a different picture.

Marca doesn't moderate racist insults of Hamilton that appear in the comments section made by readers of its website and the McLaren driver has been referred to as a "black monkey" on several occasions.

Estaban Ibarra, spokesman for Spain's Movement against Intolerance, said these manifestations of racism were a reflection of worrying trends in Spanish society and the lack of institutional action.

"Racism and xenophobia are present in Spain just as they are in the rest of Europe, but our observations show that they have grown in Spain in recent years as evidenced by the proliferation of racist Internet sites and the activity of ultra groups," Ibarra told Reuters.

"It is not just racism, it is xenophobia too directed against people from Eastern Europe or North Africa for example and people of different religions such as Muslims.

"In sport it started in football but it has spread to other arenas. We've observed that a patriotic excitement in motor sport, for example, can lead to a lack of respect to competitors from other cultures or countries.

"The government has introduced new laws but the problem is their enforcement has largely been limited to football. What we need is a more rigorous and energetic application of the laws. We need a specialist prosecutor to deal with the issue of racism and xenophobia."

Only 30 years since the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco and the subsequent transition to democracy, Spain is still coming to terms with resulting social, political and demographic changes, according to Ibarra.

"Spain now is a bit like Britain in the 1970s and 1980s," he said. "The country is experiencing widespread immigration and some people are struggling to adapt, while the institutions are behind the times."

shares
comments
Spanish federation condemns racist fans
Previous article

Spanish federation condemns racist fans

Next article

Silverstone plans take step forward

Silverstone plans take step forward
The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023 Plus

The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023

Changes to the regulations for season two of Formula 1's ground-effects era aim to smooth out last year’s troubles and shut down loopholes. But what areas have been targeted, and what impact will this have?

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history? Plus

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history?

Who are the quickest drivers in Formula 1 history? LUKE SMITH asked a jury of experienced and international panel of experts and F1 insiders. Some of them have worked closely with F1’s fastest-ever drivers – so who better to vote on our all-time top 50? We’re talking all-out speed here rather than size of trophy cabinet, so the results may surprise you…

Formula 1
Jan 25, 2023
One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1 Plus

One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1

OPINION: During what is traditionally a very quiet time of year in the Formula 1 news cycle, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been generating headlines. He’s been commenting on massive topics in a championship that loves them, but also addressing necessary smaller changes too. Here we suggest a further refinement that would be a big boon to fans

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
How can McLaren keep hold of Norris? Plus

How can McLaren keep hold of Norris?

Lando Norris is no longer the young cheeky-chappy at McLaren; he’s now the established ace. And F1's big guns will come calling if the team can’t give him a competitive car. Here's what the team needs to do to retain its prize asset

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make? Plus

What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make?

While a quick pitstop can make all the difference to the outcome of a Formula 1 race, most team managers say consistency is more important than pure speed. MATT KEW analyses the fastest pitstops from last season to see which ones – if any – made a genuine impact

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2023
When F1 ‘holiday’ races kept drivers busy through the winter Plus

When F1 ‘holiday’ races kept drivers busy through the winter

Modern Formula 1 fans have grown accustomed to a lull in racing during winter in the northern hemisphere. But, as MAURICE HAMILTON explains, there was a time when teams headed south of the equator rather than bunkering down in the factory. And why not? There was fun to be had, money to be made and reputations to forge…

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2023
What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure Plus

What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure

Porsche whipped up a frenzy thanks to a cryptic social media post last week and, although it turned out to be a false alarm, it also highlighted why manufacturers remain such an important element in terms of the attraction that they bring to F1. It is little wonder that several other manufacturers are bidding for a slice of the action

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2023
Why the new Williams boss shouldn’t avoid ‘Mercedes B-team’ comparisons Plus

Why the new Williams boss shouldn’t avoid ‘Mercedes B-team’ comparisons

OPINION: Williams has moved to replace the departed Jost Capito by appointing former Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles as its new team principal. But while he has sought to play down the idea of moulding his new squad into a vision of his old one, some overlap is only to be expected and perhaps shouldn't be shied away from

Formula 1
Jan 17, 2023