It’s time for action

Perceived racist abuse from the stands is nothing new for Spanish football, so much so that when it does rear its ugly head, many simply shrug it off and think little of it.

As La Liga has become more international, such problems seem to have gotten worse. It may not have actually increased, but the wider media coverage may lead people to suspect that it generally has.

Nevertheless, numerous clubs including Atletico Madrid, Espanyol and Real Zaragoza have been fined over the previous decade, during which time Osasuna have also found themselves in trouble after their supporters were found to have engaged in anti-Semitic chanting.

Espanyol have once again more recently seen fans accused of racist chanting, with Barcelona’s Daniel Alves their target according to reports, while Elche were sanctioned after two of their supporters aimed abuse at Granada full-back Allan Nyom.

However, the team attracting vast criticism at the moment is Real Betis.

During ‘El Derbi Sevillano’ at city rivals Sevilla on November 24, the home side’s midfielder Stephane M’Bia won a free-kick near the corner of the stadium in which Betis’ travelling supporters were situated.

As the Cameroon international jogged away, a tirade of what most present Sevilla fans understood to be monkey chants hailed down.

Of course, such things can be put down to misunderstandings in some cases, or perhaps it was simply an isolated incident. Yet, a little later during the same match the chanting was audible once again.

This time, after Betis defender Paulao received a second yellow card for something akin to a rugby tackle, TV cameras caught the visiting supporters making gestures which appeared to imitate monkeys, while chanting similar to before returned.

Some automatically assumed the Sevilla fans were guilty on this occasion, because who would racially abuse players of their own team? The confusion soon subsided, however, as people realised all of the alleged abuse stemmed from the same pocket of the ground.

After all, in the reverse fixture last season, Betis midfielder Nosa Igiebor directed insulting gestures at his own fans after scoring a late equaliser following alleged abuse aimed at him. They appear to have built themselves a reputation.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was one of many to slam the actions of these supporters, but with no punishment apparent, a week later Rayo Vallecano winger Lass Bangoura was subjected much the same, with Betis once again the opponents in this encounter.

SGS – Supporters Gol Sur – are the group believed to be responsible, a revelation which is hardly surprising considering their background.

An extreme right collective who claim to have about 700 members and cite English football fans from the 1980s as their inspiration, SGS have become notorious and are proudly supporters of radical Spanish nationalism.

It must be stressed that the club themselves have condemned the reported actions of SGS and vehemently chastise such behaviour, but it is clear that only a drastic response from the surprisingly-quiet Spanish Football Federation can bring it to a stop.