The brava bar of Racing de Avellaneda, in a file image. Getty
The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) has sanctioned the Argentine Racing Club on Tuesday for the racist gestures of a group of fans during a match against Flamengo from Brazil in Buenos Aires. The trigger was a video filmed from the visiting stands that shows a group of local fans imitating the gestures of a monkey after a tie for the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, the most important regional competition in America, on the 4th of May. The racist gestures of the fans, which the Conmebol regulations penalize with a $100,000 fine, have reopened the debate on discrimination in the stands of Argentine soccer. The sanction against Racing has been resolved the same night that a Colombian soccer player denounced racist insults during another game in Buenos Aires.
“The issue of racism is already tiring. That they call you a monkey, that they call you black, it is disrespectful and sad,” Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega complained on Tuesday after the defeat of his team, Independiente de Santa Fe, against Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata in Argentina. “It doesn’t hurt me that we lost, it hurts what happens around the stadiums. What is happening in the whole world is a disaster, ”he said, still on the field, while being interviewed at the end of the Copa Sudamericana match, the second regional competition.
The Gymnastics authorities apologized this Wednesday, although they are now awaiting the resolution of the Conmebol Disciplinary Commission. The regional soccer authority could sanction the team on the same grounds as Racing Club: article 15.2 of its disciplinary code, which contemplates a fine of $100,000 against any institution “whose fans insult or violate the human dignity of another person or group of persons, by any means, based on skin color, race, sex or sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, creed or origin”.
Rodallega’s complaint opens a new panorama in the face of xenophobia in Argentine stadiums. It is the most recent case that goes beyond the usual insults when national teams face Brazilian teams. The latest sanction an Argentine team received for the xenophobia of its fans is a carbon copy of the incidents at the Racing stadium earlier this month. In May 2022, Boca Juniors fans made similar gestures against Brazilian Corinthians fans during another Copa Libertadores match. The joke is so common in confrontations between fans of both countries that the Brazilians have their own response: they tend to burn Argentine bills from the stands to mock the runaway inflation in the country.
The xenophobic and racist insult is a mark of violence in Argentine stadiums, which have restricted visiting fans from entering league matches for a decade. The organization Save Soccer keeps a historical record of 346 violent incidents in stadiums that ended in the death of a fan in situations ranging from human avalanches to police repression. But the most common episode is fights or ambushes between fans.
The ban on away fans in stadiums has done little against xenophobic chants in the stands. The anti-Semitic insults against Atlanta, a Buenos Aires team from one of the city’s traditionally Jewish neighborhoods, or the xenophobic chants against Boca Juniors, which link the popular roots of the team with the most fans in the country with South American immigration in Argentina, are common episodes in national football. But the cruelty against the Brazilian teams is transversal in Argentine soccer: like Racing, River Plate, Boca Juniors or Independiente de Avellaneda they have been sanctioned for insulting visitors from their stands in the last two years.
“We cannot allow fascism and racism to dominate inside soccer stadiums,” the Brazilian president, Lula da Silva, complained this week about Spain’s “passivity” against the racist insults suffered by Vinicius Jr, a Brazilian soccer player. Real Madrid. Lula’s government has asked its Spanish counterpart to take action in the case. Turned the racism that Vinicius lives in Spain into a diplomatic conflict, the latest sanctions against an Argentine team now put the focus on the South American neighbor.
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