Saturday 24 January ~

A remarkable story came out of last week’s Spanish league game between Real Madrid and Osasuna that seemed to broadly escape press commentary. The game’s referee, Alfonso Perez Burrull, wrote up in his match report that Real fans were waving flags and banners with “extremist or radical symbolism”. He also referred to chants “making reference to the gas chamber, death to Osasuna”, and shouts of “Fascists forever”, accompanied by gestures and signs “of a fascist nature”.

That of all people the referee was the one having to call attention to such behaviour means that, given a crowd of 75,000, the chanting and gestures must have been fairly conspicuous. You wouldn’t expect a man controlling a high-speed football game in arguably the world’s best league to otherwise notice the antics of spectators in a stadium the size of the Bernabeu. What on earth were the stewards or the police doing? Keeping an eye out to see if Osasuna defender Miguel Flano was tugging on Raul’s shirt? Unfortunately for Burrull, he seems to have been focusing as much on the crowd as on the game – he was given a one-month suspension from reffing for twice incorrectly booking Osasuna’s striker Juanfran Torres for diving.

Following Burrull’s report, the Spanish football federation slapped Madrid with a draconian fine of… €3,000. A federation spokesman said Real had been punished for breaching a rule aimed at preventing xenophobia and intolerance. There was nothing about measures being taken to ban fans from the stadium. There was not even a statement on the club’s English-language website condemning the fans’ behaviour. After all, if the federation doesn’t take such offenses seriously, why should the club?
We all know that Spain only came out of fascist dictatorship in the 1970s, and that Real was General Franco’s pet club. We also know that a generation back, such scenes were not uncommon inside English grounds, but sustained and steady campaigns have exacted healthy change. But while Real Madrid are not responsible for bigotry outside their stadium, there’s no reason why both they and the Spanish federation can’t take strong action to set a precedent in the face of ongoing pro-fascist behaviour from the Ultra Sur fan group. At the moment, like its objectionable former national team coach Luis Aragones, the country’s football officials are out of step with anti-racism campaigns across the FIFA nations. The Spanish federations’s risibly insulting fine is a naked affront to even basic, PR-driven levels of human decency.
Aragones’ disgraceful past remarks aimed at Thierry Henry were glossed over during his country’s Euro 2008 campaign. It seems we can hold off condemning a bigot if he provides us with some flowing, attacking football, so scarce has positive play become. But there can be no such excuse for a team claiming to be one of the world’s greatest footballing institutions. The silence of their players, officials and fans in tolerating the noxious extremism of the Ultra Sur group has been highlighted by one whistling referee. Spanish football needs men like Burrull, whatever his refereeing abilities, far more than it seems to realise. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (5)
Comment by ForxaBarca 2009-01-25 06:03:09

"We all know that Spain only came out of fascist dictatorship in the 1970s, and that Real was General Franco’s pet club."
This is not a factual statement. Others far more well versed in Spanish footballing politics than I have argued that Real Madrid in the 1950s-60s had an abundance of highly gifted players who thoroughly dominated European football-an area where Franco's reach was nullified. The link between Franco and Real is rather tenuous. Perhaps you can convince me otherwise.

You have not mentioned that Barcelona has its Boixos Nois or that other clubs have a racist element in their stands. It seems that you have unfairly singled out Real Madrid, in part because you falsely assume that they carried the torch for Franco or vice versa. You have correctly mentioned that Real Madrid's players have largely kept silent about the fascist element in their stands. But did the then Real Madrid's David Beckham chastise the Spanish when Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were roundly abused in Spain? Not that I can recollect. Did Gerrard or Terry or Lampard stand up for Theo Walcott who was abused racially in Croatia? Not that I can remember. Samuel Eto'o, on the other hand, has spoken out about racism in the Spanish club football. Real Madrid's players silence is a shame as is the boorish behavior of most Spaniards where Black players are involved. Is the imitation of gas chambers supposed to offend the Black players or Osasuna's Iranian player? Or does Osasuna have a Jewish connection? Moreover, Real Madrid's Ultra Sur have used the gas hissing sound effect whenever Real Madrid plays Athletic because Athletic is the symbolic Basque institution. What then of Osasuna which is also a Basque club, albeit with non-Basque players?

Comment by radmonkey 2009-01-25 06:10:47

Didn't Laporta kick out Boixos Nois from the Nou Camp?

Comment by philnolan16 2009-01-25 13:07:18

Yes Joan Laporta adressed the issue by banning members of Boixos Nois and their neo-nazi agenda from the Nou Camp, and with that has banned their violence, their facist salutes & their chants of 'Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil'.

Members of Ultra Sur group are still welcome in the Bernabeu.

Comment by G.Man wants a jihad 2009-01-25 15:06:11

ForxaBarca: Surely Ian "singled out" Real Madrid because Real Madrid was singled out by referee Burrull. Had Burrull reported Barcelona for such behaviour, Ian presumably would have "singled out" Barcelona.

And Ian's point stands: there is a deplorable lack of outrage.

Comment by xlucavix 2009-02-03 10:19:40

I do agree with Ian's statement on Real Madrid being Franco's pet club. Mostly because in the 60s Real had a great football team, and it was easy for Franco to use it as an excuse for his centralized fascist politics in Spain. The fact that he supported Real Madrid is not important here, as he luckily had no influence in Real's victories. But he could have had some of that in Real's finances and footballers signings.
We have some racial problems here in Spain, but who doesn't? The problem is the different treatment we are giving to the problem. Mainly because our democracy already is too young. We need to asume this as a real problem and act against racism and fascism, as it is a shame for all of us.

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