Cheikh Sarr’s ban questions Spain’s campaign against racism

Cheikh Sarr’s ban questions Spain’s campaign against racism

In a time when there should be more awareness about racism in football, it seems to be going in the wrong direction in Spain.

Real Madrid superstar Vinicius Jnr. has been at the centre of repeated racist abuse in the past year and it took a toll on him when he broke down in tears in a recent press conference with Brazil national team.

When asked about his exoerience with racist abuse, the Brazilian star responded that all he wanted to do was simply play football without having to deal with the abuse.

The latest episode of racism in Spain that gained attention was in the third division involving Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr who plays for Rayo Majadahonda.

The 23-year-old was shown a red card in an away league game against Sestao last weekend after he confronted a home fan who approached him from the stands to hurl racist insults at him.

The game had to be abandoned as Sarr’s teammates walked off the pitch in protest and following a review by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) disciplinary committee, it was decided to hand Majadahonda a 3-0 walkover loss and hand Sestao three points while Sarr was banned for two matches.

Sestao, who were leading 2-1 as at the 84th minute when Sarr was sent off, did not escape punishment as the RFEF disciplinary committee ordered them to play their next two games behind closed doors while also paying a €6,001 fine.

While the Spanish FA acknowledged that there was evidence of racist abuse towards Sarr, it begs the question of why the goalkeeper had to be punished for standing up to the despicable act, something that puzzled the Senegalese.

“He [the referee] didn’t see anything because he was in the middle of the pitch. He didn’t even ask me, he showed me the red card and I couldn’t understand it. If they do something racist to you, you would have to defend the player,” Sarr told Spanish radio, Cadena Cope.

“No one went to identify him [the abuser], That seems strange to me too.”

Is it because the Majadahonda players stood in solidarity with their abused teammate and decided to walk off the pitch he had to be punished? Is finishing a game more important than hatred and discrimination targeted towards a player simply because of the colour of his skin?

If that is the case, then it only shows that the governing body of Spanish football is a joke and is not concerned about kicking racism out of the country’s football.

The RFEF might have taken some steps such as organising international friendlies involving both Brazil and Spain after repeated abuse against Vinicius but the punishment given to Sarr does not indicate that the RFEF are serious about an issue that is making talented African and black players seen with disdain and ridicule.

Sarr revealed that Vinicius reached out to him to give him support after his ordeal and it is comforting to know that the Brazilian is the leading advocate against racism in Spain.

“I’m with him ’til the death, because he has experienced it,” Sarr added.  “It makes no sense that there is racism. I am very proud of him; he alone can’t do it all.

“I thanked him for supporting me. I have thanked him for his post on Instagram. If all black players were like Vinicius, racism would end.”

Vinicius famously stated last year that La Liga, the top tier of Spanish football and the RFEF encouraged racism, asserting that football in Spain belonged to racists. The response forced a ridiculous reaction from the league president Javier Tebas who accused Vinicius for not being well-informed and told him not to allow himself to be manipulated.

Maybe the Brazilian star was right with that assessment and if that is the case, it will always paint a bad picture of Spanish football in the eyes of African and black players. It will also continue to negate whatever effort the RFEF is trying to do in purportedly tackling racism in football.

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