The Bernabéu was full of controversy Wednesday night, but not for the sporting reasons that we have come to expect when these two sides clash. Audible racist chants, lasers aimed at players and referees alike, as well as other derogatory chants were seen and heard during yesterday’s semi-final match in the Copa del Rey. There was even an instance of a cigarette lighter being thrown at FC Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué after a last ditch challenge on Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo. After the increasing reports of racial abuse toward players throughout the world, one wonders how this can and should be dealt with.
The target of Wednesday’s racism in the Bernabéu was Dani Alves, who was subjected to monkey chants every time he touched the ball. The fullback took to his Twitter (@DaniAlvesD2) after the match to comment, “Great work from my team. It’s a pity about the result and it’s even more pitiful about the racism that there is in some places, but I’m happy as I am.” Following the sanctions on Lazio after their fans racially abused several Tottenham players, and the more recent racial abuse of AZ Alkmaar forward Jozy Altidore, it’s now up to the RFEF to decide an appropriate punishment.
Another derogatory chant heard yesterday came from a smaller section of the Santiago Bernabéu, known as “La Parroquia Blanca.” This chant was directed at Lionel Messi, who was called “subnormal.” This is a Spanish insult used to mock those suffering from mental retardation or Down syndrome. This section of the Bernabéu has been known to recite these chants towards Messi, even when Real Madrid plays against other clubs.
Piqué wasn’t spared from the Bernabéu’s hospitality when a member of the crowd threw a cigarette lighter at him following a tackle on Ronaldo. As Piqué picked up the projectile to show the referee, Carles Puyol took it from his hands, tossing it aside and demanding his focus. However, referee Carlos Gómez not only witnessed the event, he also recorded it in his match report. Additionally, he reported “Repeatedly throughout the game, a laser pointer that came from the public pointed at me and different players.”
We can only hope that our fans in the Camp Nou take the high road and avoid such petty behavior. It is normal to see the public treat the opposing team with a dash of hostility; that is essentially one of the advantages of playing at home. But when such xenophobia and racism is shown by a crowd, we have to be careful to not let that cloud our judgement. Two wrongs, after all, don’t make a right. The best thing is to allow Real Madrid to receive its sanctions and focus on supporting our team in the second leg, instead of wasting energy on the rival.