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Racism in Spain: An Inside View

Marcelo, from Real Madrid.
Marcelo, from Real Madrid.

Here is the last installment of Managing Madrid's three-part series about racism in Spain, which started just after Wednesday’s Clásico. As a Spaniard, I am going to try to offer you a look on how the country lives with this emergent problem.

Spain needs to realize that we are a multicultural country. Immigration has happened so fast in the last few years that most of the Spaniards haven't had time to get used to coexisting with cultures and habits so different than ours. Asians, South Americans, Africans and Arabians are about 35-40% of the population in some of our cities, while 10 or 20 years ago we didn’t have much of a migratory flow. Not many of our citizens were going out of the country, nor were people coming here to work and live.

I think that a transition is essential in the life of every human. Radical changes are sometimes not easy to get used to, and this is why some people in Spain are racist. I just think they haven't had time to get to know other people's cultures.

But since we are focusing on racism in sports, I’d like to say that the problem is slightly different there. I am not trying to excuse the chanting or these people at all. I think they should be punished and banned from the games. I also don’t believe that the whole Camp Nou or Bernabeu insulted Marcelo and Alves, so why should the rest of the fans be affected by these boneheaded people?

I don't think Spain is a racist country at all. Now Serge Ibaka, originally from Congo, is playing for the Spanish Basketball National Team, and nobody has said a bad word about it, while other countries did not like these kind of moves in their National Teams. When right-winger Odonkor was called for the 2006 World Cup, some people in Germany said that black people who were born in other countries should not play for Germany.

Soccer is a wonderful sport, and Spanish people are pretty passionate about it. If you ask me, I believe that most of the fans that insulted these players really didn’t mean to do it in a racist way. I really think they just tried to get the players on their nerves. I would even bet that most of these fans have friends of other races. I agree with Gabe’s point when he says that this is our problem. We do not think. We do not stop and say "hey, this might be wrong." This is the thing that should be fixed. Maybe through campaigns with famous players from teams of different countries (every team except Bilbao has a star player that is from another culture or religion), like Benzema and Özil, Abidal, Alves and Keita. Marcos Senna from Villarreal could even play a big part of this campaign since he was a very important player in the Spanish National Team that won the Eurocup in 2008. And I am sure every Spaniard cheered for him to do well.

The problem is that when the player is on the other side and plays for the opposite team, we tend to forget that our team has players in the same situation that could also be affected by them. I am sure Alves got offended when Marcelo was insulted Wednesday, and I also think Marcelo didn’t like what Bernabeu did.

I would like to ask for some time. Spain is young in these matters, and I am sure we will soon improve our behavior. Not all countries are as advanced as the United States or England in terms of racial confrontations, and these countries changed over a long period of time. And again, this is not an excuse at all. I completely think this is shameful and both teams should be punished and fined so we all can see that LFP and RFEF are starting to take this issue seriously.


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