Monday, November 10, 2008


I beg the question but I will not be giving an answer.

Certainly in my years in Spain I have not encountered any racism. However I am not a black racing driver or soccer player.

I have certainly encountered racism against me in the USA, Ireland and South Africa where my life was put at risk by a priest, a member of the Zulu royal family, who insisted I was an ANC spy in the midst of an Inkartha area.

About ten years ago I met a group of older Spaniards who insisted that as a foreigner I had no rights in Spain – but I suspect that was more a hangover from the Franco era than racism.

So why am I raising this issue?

Firstly because the Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, was insulted by supporters of Spain’s Fernando Alonso when he practiced in Barcelona in January of this year. He also suffered racial abuse on a Spanish website ahead of the Brazilian Gran Prix.

Alonso dismissed the claims of racism explaining that the fans involved had been taking part in ‘carnaval’. Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Supremo, stated last week on BBC Radio 5 Live “I think people look and read into it things that aren’t there. Those things are all a bit of a joke and people are entitled to support who they want to support. I don’t see why people should have been insulted by it.”

The FIA thankfully takes a different view and runs an “Every Race” campaign whilst Hamilton’s father, Anthony, at the time wondered if his family should be subjected to such treatment. I make no comment – just look at the photograph and judge for yourself.

Secondly matters are far worse in the world of soccer. Black players in Spain’s La Liga suffer badly at the hands of racists supporters, just ask Barcelona’s Eto’o. England have refused to play Spain in Real Madrid’s Bernabéu in February because of the abuse hurled at its black players during the last encounter between the nations there in 2004. At that time David Beckham was a Real player and mumbled –“I was surprised because I’ve never heard it in Spain even though I live and play here.” Atlético de Madrid has also been recently sanctioned by UEFA after racist abuse in the European Champions League.

Now if you ask me are Britons racist I would say that sadly we are or certainly have been. The difference is that in soccer the authorities have taken a hard line against abuse and this has spread to other sports and the general public. Indeed we have so many black sporting heroes, including Hamilton, that racial abuse is now no longer tolerated at sporting venues and this attitude has filtered through to a wider level of society.

Is there a need for Spain to follow suit?

1 comment:

Justin Roberts said...

Racism is alive and well in Spain, so of course it should follow suit. It's not just the stuff that happens in the footy and the attacks on Hamilton.

What about the recent photos of the basketball team? There was a vicious reaction from the Spanish, including mainstream press and journalists, to critism about this. Is taking the micky out of a group's physical characteristics not racism? Can you imagine the England footy team having a photo pushing their noses flat before playing a game against an African team. There would be hell to pay...