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Vinícius incident: La Liga, racism and African players

Vinícius incident: La Liga, racism and African players
Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, left, and Yaya Toure celebrate after the UEFA Champions League final soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona in Rome, May 27, 2009.   -  
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Jon Super/AP


Racist abuse Brazilian player Vinicius suffered Sunday (May 21) brings back to mind bad memories.**Sunday's incident was not the first occurrence of racism in Spain's top football league commonly known as La Liga.  For the past 40 years, players, some dark-skinned and Africans have suffered racism at the hands of "supporters".

A star in Cameroon but little known in Spain upon his arrival in club Espanyol Barcelone in 1982, Thomas Nkono was racially abused in the Camp Nou stadium during a derby against F.C Barcelone.

Some members of the public chanted racist songs and threw bananas on the pitch.

Speaking recently to a reporter from Spanish pure player El Confidencial, the now 66-year-old goalkeeper had not forgotten the incident: "the funniest was that, in the stands, one section called me names when another whistled at them for them to stop. I've also took that as a challenge."

Monkey chanting

Idriss Carlos Kameni, a compatriot of Nkono and fellow player at Espanyol Barcelone, also suffered racist chants from the public in Zaragoza in 2004.

The goalkeeper revealed his worst memory as he spoke to Cadena Ser radio in 2017: "We were winning 1-0 and they had called me names."

"Even the referee asked me if I felt well enough to keep on playing. I didn't even know where I was anymore, but I found the strength to keep playing."

Alfonso Perez Burrull halted a fixture in 2005 because of racist abuse spectators inflicted on Kameni in in Malaga.

Reuters called him that year "one of the most active referees in reporting racist behaviour by fans."

And there was no shortage of abuse. Bananas would be thrown on Kameni at the Atlético Madrid's stadium. "When a person goes through such a thing, they can go back home and commit suicide," the footballer told TV station Movistar in 2020.

"Nobody can ever imagine what I lived."

Not playing anymore

Samuel Eto'o's five years at the FC Barcelone (2004-2009) were punctuated by racist abuse.

In an incident, the forward lobbed a ball at Getafe fans after some made monkey noises from the stands. For that, Eto'o got a yellow card.

Deux weeks later, as his club played Albacete, the Cameroonian legend was once again racially abused.

As the litany of abuse continued Eto'o defiantly celebrated a goal against Real Zaragoza in 2005.

"[...] If somebody pays for a ticket to make a monkey noise at me, then I'll act like a monkey," he later stated.

This culminated in 2006 when, as Eto'o yet again faced Zaragoza. The star player had suffered racist taunts from a section of the stands for a large part of the fixture.

At some point, as he was to shoot a corner, he was not having it anymore.

"No más! No juego más!", he would not be player anymore. As he started walking off the pitch, his teammates, players from Zaragoza’s and the referee tried to convince him to stay. But he was unwilling. It is eventually after yet another intervention that the Cameroonian player continued the fixture.

A few days later, the Spanish federation fined Real Zaragoza 9,000 euros.

We stand by you

In 2020, Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams was subjected to racist chant as he was being substituted.

The Ghanaian had already suffered racist insult in Gijon, in 2016. The incident prompted the referee to halt the fixture for a few minutes.

Spain's Prime Minister condemned the episode and the country's most sold paper Marca chose as headline for its cover "All of Us are Williams: Enough of racism"

Two supporters of the Espanyol would eventually be prosecuted.  

The list of Africna players who have suffered racism on the pitch is long: Nico Williams, Mouctar Diakhaby, Frédéric Kanouté, Yaya Touré and many more were abused.

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