Tonight will be the first time that a Spanish president in power attends a football match played in Barcelona’s home stadium, Nou Camp. Despite the traditional rivalry betweenn Real Madrid and Barcelona, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has announced his decision to break the habit of Spanish presidents who normally attend Real matches, and to attend the match. Zapatero supports Barcelona.
Apart from the presence of Zapatero and the importance of the game, tonight’s match will be closely watched by observers who are increasingly worried by the spread of racism in Spanish football grounds over the past months.
Racism is relatively new to football terraces in Spain but, although the Spanish press and football authorities tended to play down the importance of the much-publicised offensive racist chants heard at the Spain v England match last November, the issue of racism in football is being discussed more and more openly and people seem to be acknowledging at last that it does exist and it is getting worse.
Samuel Eto’o, the incredibly talented and popular Camaroon striker and Africa’s footballer of the year, responded to racist monkey chants and peanuts thrown from the terraces in a recent match against Zaragoza, by scoring a goal and dancing like a monkey in celebration. After the match he told reporters that he had acted like a monkey because the crowd was treating him like one.
In interviews held since the event, Eto’o has spoken more seriously about the growing racism on Spanish terraces and how it affects players like him who love Spain. He has suggested creating a kind of players, trainers, supporters and press alliance to oppose the racist fans and help to counteract the damage they are doing to the game here.
It will be interesting to see fans behaviour on both sides tonight in what promises to be a thrilling match.