'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (2023)

AShortly after 5pm on Tuesday, a boy wearing a Real Madrid belt ran onto a wet football pitch in the center of the Spanish capital, oblivious to the racism of the man whose name was written on his back orled to national and international discussion. "We haven't told him about the Vinicius case yet," said Mohamed's mother, Milene Dos Santos, as she and her husband watched from the sidelines. - If he asks, we will tell him. He is only seven years old, but he must be ready for what is coming.

It seems that the events of the past few days have been too difficult for many, many elderly Spaniards. Theabuse thrown awayon Real Madrid's Brazilian winger Vinicius Júnior during Sunday's game against Valenciait resulted in three quick arrests. Four more people have now been arrested in connection with a mannequin wearing the player's shirt hanging from a bridge in the Spanish capital.

'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (1)

The 22-year-old footballer, who was moved to tears by recent racist attacks, said his treatment was proof of how deep racism runs in both of them.Ligaand Spanish society.

"I feel sorry for those Spaniards who disagree, but today in BrazilSpainis known as the country of racists"he said after the game.

'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (2)
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His words were echoed by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who called on FIFA and La Liga to take "serious measures", adding: "We cannot allow fascism and racism to take over football stadiums."

The accusations have prompted Spain's political leaders to take a stand on racism as the country heads to the polls for regional and local elections on Sunday. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that "hate and xenophobia should have no place in football or in our society". A government spokesman went further, claiming that perpetrators of racist behavior were "prosecuted and punished" inSpain.

Alberto Núñez Feijoo, leader of the conservative People's Party, said racism and sport were "totally incompatible", but added: "Spain is not a racist country in any way."

The vessel and the denial of the campaign seemed distant to some gathered around the pitch where Mohamed and his teammates trained in Lavapiés, a diverse Madrid neighborhood where African and Bangladeshi shops and restaurants mingle with hipster cafes. Their neighborhood clubDragons of Lavapies, played by 20 teams consisting of approximately 400 players from more than 50 countries.

Dos Santos, who was born in Portugal to a Cape Verdean family but lived in Spain for 30 of her 32 years, said she grew up surrounded by all kinds of microaggressions, from people touching her hair to constantly asking why he says So . good spanish.

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"It's a burden I've been carrying since I was a child," she said. - I grew up here, but I never felt like I was from here.

'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (3)

She and her husband, Senegalese-born Ibrahim Ndao, felt bad about Vinicius' abuse, but were not surprised.

"There is systemic racism in Spain and I hope what happened will open the eyes to that," she said. “Maybe privileged people will notice. Perhaps it is easier not to acknowledge the reality, or perhaps many people are simply unaware of it. There are few politicians of color; you watch all the election debates on television and none of them are in color." Spain, she added, "has a long way to go."

Mame Gueye, who brought her eight-year-old son Serigne to Dragone's training, said she felt terrible when she saw what Vinicius had survived.

'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (4)

"He was so depressed and powerless about what was going on," she said. "I think he was scared and nervous, he suffered a lot, and nobody did anything. He complained and nothing was done.

(Video) Real Madrid Star Vinicius Junior Faces Racial Abuse | Real Madrid Files Hate Crime Complaint Over It

However, Gueye, who moved to Spain from Senegal 15 years ago, disagreed with some of the player's comments. "There is racism here, but I don't agree that Spain is a racist country," she said.

Founded nine years ago, Dragones de Lavapiés exists to defend and promote diversity and fight racism and stereotypes. The president of the club, Dolores Galindo, said that while the players and their families experience racism on a daily basis, racism is still ignored by the majority of Spanish society.

"If you're white and you've never personally experienced it, you don't believe in racism," says Galindo, who is white. "Until you spend a lot of time with kids of color — especially African kids — you don't realize how often things happen to them, one after the other. And it's not just someone saying something on the field.

She pointed to a recent trip where some of the younger dragons were taken to a museum. Although all the children were on the lawn of the museum, the only one who was called out by the guard - twice - was the African boy.

"People are now talking about whether Spain is racist," Galindo said. "I'm Spanish and I love my country and I don't want it to exist here. But you can't try to isolate it and say 'No, it only exists in football'.

According toresearch published last year25% of Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 29 (mostly men) hold explicitly racist or xenophobic attitudes, and most of their racial hatred is directed against the Roma and the population of sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco. This is shown by the data of the Spanish Ministry of the Interiorinvestigated 639 racist or xenophobic incidentsin 2021 - an increase of 24% compared to 2019

Neither the statistics nor the potentially volatile media and political debate about racism come as a surprise to Okba Mohammad, a 24-year-old Syrian journalist who has lived in Spain since fleeing his hometown of Deraa under the Russian regime of Bashar al-Assad. he supported the offensive there five years ago.

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'It's not just about football': families of young footballers on racism in Spain (5)

"Spain is clearly a racist country," he said. "There is institutional racism, but there is also racism that stems from a lack of anti-racist education. There are a lot of people who are racist without knowing it, or people who are racist because they want to be racist."

He added that despite his anger against Vinicius, the abuse could have been directed at any black or non-white player.

Vinicius Júnior and why it's time to stop talking about football | Sid Lowe Read more

"My problem is the response, because there are many people who suffer from racism every day and who have not received this kind of institutional, social or media response," Mohammad said.

He also compared the speed of the arrests in the Vinicius case to his own ill-fated attempts to report the racist behavior he suffered. He added that while the media have a double standard by focusing on the plight of one footballer and ignoring the daily experiences of so many other victims of racism in Spain, their hypocrisy is nothing new - pointing to wider and much deeper-rooted prejudice. .

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"We saw the enormous scale of institutional racism during the war in Ukraine, when Ukrainian refugees arrived in Spain and other European countries," he said. "They introduced a law to issue documents to Ukrainians within 24 hours. When that happened, I waited two and a half years in Spain for my papers."

Despite all the columns, rumors and promises, Mohammad believes Sunday's toxic events at Valencia's Mestalla stadium - and the deeper sources of toxicity from which they arose - will soon disappear from public discourse.

"I think it will be forgotten," he said. "But the people who don't forget are people of color who suffer from racism and report it every day."

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