The also member of the Anti-Violence in Sports Commission warns that “the madmen will give us the season if there is no firm message”
Few people are more authorized than Esteban Ibarra, president of the Movement Against Intolerance since the late 1990s and member of the Observatory and the Anti-Violence in Sports Commission, to analyze the recurring problem of racist behavior in Spanish football. Since he read the insurgent Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as a young man when he was deprived of liberty in the Carabanchel prison, he confesses his commitment as a long-standing social activist. He calls for more involvement from all football players to apply the law and put an end to this scourge.
What do the insults Vinicius received on the occasion of the recent Madrid derby at the Metropolitano tell you?
-Vinicius has been a victim of racism and xenophobia for a long time and whoever does not want to see it has his back to reality. In Son Moix he has already received insults, in the Camp Nou too, an issue that disgusted me that it was archived for not identifying the perpetrators. There are other notorious cases such as Dani Alves, who had a banana thrown at him, or the episodes suffered by Eto’o in different fields. It was precisely as a result of the insults against the Cameroonian striker that I sat down with Jaime Lissavetzky, then Secretary of State for Sport, and asked him for specific legislation that was born in 2007 and has been very effective when it has been applied.
What penalties does that law contemplate against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sports?
-If it is a racist hate crime, the perpetrators can be sentenced to one to three years in prison; if it is a serious administrative infraction, between 3,000 and 60,000 euros of fine; and if it is very serious, from 60,000 and up. And that is what the Anti-Violence Commission, of which I am a part of although they do not call me because I am annoying, and the Hate Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, to which we have transferred a complaint about what happened with Vinicius, have to investigate jointly.
However, the feeling of the people is that these execrable acts go unpunished or are very cheap.
-Exactly. The main allies of violence and intolerance are two: impunity and indifference. When they say that it is society that is reflected here, it is not true. They are groups with an important organization that are projected in the stadiums and use a pedagogy in social networks that reaches adolescents who then reproduce the insults or even resolve things aggressively.
Zabaleta and Jimmy
So, when he hears, for example, Cholo Simeone say that it is a problem that is in society, he will raise his hands to his head.
-Of course, totally. Football is not diffuse. It is part of society with violent nuclei that should not be in football. Nothing could be further from my intention to harm the fans and Atlético, which is deeply rooted in the character and cultural and sporting heritage of Madrid, but these people are too many. The directors of the clubs have to contribute more and in this specific case many things have happened, such as the deaths of Aitor Zabaleta and Jimmy, for the staff to put themselves in profile.
Do you consider the leaders of the clubs and politicians who look the other way to be partly to blame?
-The law says that the clubs fulfill their responsibilities as organizers inside and outside the stadium. It even refers to the bus arrivals and departures of rival teams. They can’t turn their backs and say it’s not their problem. They have to contribute to clarifying the facts so that Antiviolence can act with administrative measures and the Prosecutor’s Office also with respect to criminal offenses. LaLiga can propose sanctions, but they are the framework of a private initiative. We ask José Manuel Franco, president of the CSD, to apply the law and clarify responsibilities. And to the Government Delegation that acts with diligence and does not sleep in the offices because the cases prescribe. The law must be followed in its entirety. I am also a member of the Observatory against Racism and Intolerance and they don’t call me either because we are independent.
Should the media also do self-criticism?
-Totally. I lived an experience in an act where he spoke of the growth of ultras groups. A commentator told me that it seemed that he was talking about Korea and Vietnam, but nine days later Jimmy died in the Manzanares confrontation and that same person changed the speech. Spain is not a racist country and Spanish football is not racist, but there is racist behavior in football and in Spain, which is different. I do not accept stigmatizing my country and football because they do not deserve it, but neither do I deny the evidence of facts that are racist. And it is the responsibility of the clubs and the political authorities to act firmly and with the authority that the law gives them. Our society is recognized as one of the most tolerant in Europe, but there are radical groups that have their nest in each stadium. Leaders and authorities cannot hide behind society. It is necessary to intervene surgically where it is necessary to do it and apply the law.
Do you think there are victims like Vinicius who don’t help with dances or simulations either?
-It is not a problem of whether he dances samba, but of damaging human dignity. Let him dance whatever he wants, more would be missing. As long as he does not violate the sporting order and respects the public, he has freedom. And if you don’t like it, then what can you do? You can comment on the behavior of a player, but it is an absurd debate because it can never give rise to the exercise of a criminal offense. That’s the mother of the lamb. The right to racist insult does not exist. And we have filed the complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office because Vinicius is humiliated, mistreated and his personal dignity is attacked, not only in the vicinity of the Metropolitan, but throughout the week of the derby on social networks. It leaves much to be desired that there are pundits who trivialize, justify or have come to use racist expressions.
Do you think that if Vinicius were white, he would also be insulted in the stadiums, as was the case, for example, with Cristiano Ronaldo?
-Surely, but in this case it’s racism, in Cristiano’s it was xenophobia and if they call them fagots then it’s homophobia. It is intolerance to the different, as if they call you fat or they mess with you because of your religious beliefs. People must be sheltered and protected universally, without distinction.
Are you concerned that what happened with Vinicius has a mimetic effect and is repeated this season in other stadiums?
-I fear the worst and that is why a quick legal response is very important. I warned him at the exit of the covid. You’ll see when the madmen get together because they’re going to come out grown and strong. We have to convey a message of firmness or they are going to give us the season.