England vs. Spain: Against Thoughtless Racism

GonzaloCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2008

The incidents at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in a friendly between Spain and England in 2004 prompted the English FA's head of communications to request that an upcoming friendly between the two national sides not be played at the same venue. The England coach, Fabio Capello, has distanced himself from these remarks, saying that "I don't decide where England play, it's a decision of the English federation which they will have to agree with the Spanish. For me I don't mind where we play, and of course if it is the Bernabéu, then all the better".

A lot of Spaniards have been scandalised about being tarred with the same brush as a few racist idiots and many feel misunderstood by the English about 'innocent' remarks such as those uttered by then national coach Luis Aragonés about Thierry Henry. Instead of answering these points myself, I leave it to the editor of As, Alfredo Relaño. I don't usually have a lot of time for As, or even for Relaño, but I think his commentary this time is worth translating:

England says that they don't want to play at the Bernabéu, because of the racist chants heard in that stadium against Ashley Cole in the last match between our two nations. At first, in the heat of the moment, we find their attitude offensive, but, on reflection, we should give it some thought. Are we racist? Perhaps we are, without knowing it, like that character of Molière's who spoke in prose without realising. What about the English then, you will ask, and with reason. Well, the English are the English and we are who we are. They were responsible for awful behaviour in their day and found themselves in a multiracial society before we did.

That's why we must give their reproaches some thought, even if they are exaggerated, like this one. For me, the game has to be played at the Bernabéu or not at all. If they don't want to play, then we don't play, and we'll say no more about it. But we have to think about this. Here we don't think we are racist but we speak without thinking: "Tell that black shit that...". We use expressions like "deceive like a Chinaman". We call those who are overly jealous "moors". We use the word "judiada" (jewry) to talk about a treasonous action. We mistrust those who are different. When we were all alike we didn't notice it. Now we are beginning to realise.

People always say to me: "we are not racist. We only jeer the black players from other teams, not our own black players". Well, perhaps that is to be more fanatical than racist, but it is still racist. When you call someone black with the intention of insulting them (I'm not even going to go into doing monkey chants) it's because you perceive being black as worse than not being black and that is racism pure and simple. It's another matter altogether that we don't see it as racism and that those who went through the same problems earlier have to tell us to make us notice. They had to bear that burden before and now seek for us to bear it as well. They may overdo it, as the English FA are doing now, but we must not waste the opportunity.

View the original article at the All In White blog.

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