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Feb 21, 2014

Nosa: Racism worse in Spanish football

Real Betis midfielder Nosa Igiebor has told the BBC that in his experience racism is much more prevalent in Spanish football than elsewhere in Europe.

Nosa has opened up about the racist abuse he and other black teammates have suffered in Spain.
Nosa says he had no experience of racism in football until he moved to Betis in 2012.

• Hunter: Time to take a stand

The current season has seen incidents including Betis ‘supporters’ reducing Nosa’s teammate Paulao to tears with abuse during a game, and Granada defender Allan-Romeo Nyom being targeted in a La Liga match at Elche.

In early February Atletico Madrid fans were heard directing ‘monkey noises’ at Real Madrid left-back Marcelo after a Copa del Rey game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with no action being subsequently taken by the authorities or either club even after Marcelo himself drew attention to the abuse.

Nosa said that after having no issues in spells at Norwegian club Lillestrom and Israeli outfit Hapoel Tel Aviv, he had been shocked by the level of racism he has experienced since joining Betis in summer 2012.

“For me I never thought about it, as I never experienced it in Norway,” the Nigeria international said. “I went to Israel and never experienced it. So I thought okay, it is the same everywhere.

“But when I came here and I saw these fans. If you play badly they scream and shout, but with the blacks it is different. They tend to call you names. I have seen my teammates who killed us in a game and nobody is saying anything about it. Because he is white.

“When I came here that is when I knew there was racism in football. I never knew it before. For me I think FIFA or anybody should do something about it, because we all are human beings. Your colour does not really matter. Let us just play football and enjoy it.”

Nosa spoke about his experience during a 3-3 draw with city rivals Sevilla in April 2013, when he entered the game as a substitute and then gestured to his own team’s supporters after scoring a late equaliser.

“It is an experience which really I do not want to remember,” the 23-year-old continued. “I do not want to talk about it, but I am going to share it now as it might help some other players. The coach asked me to warm up, and I went there with three other white guys.

“We were down 3-1 at that time, and there were these two guys who started shouting ‘Nosa black monkey, negro’, those kind of words. They started screaming at me. I was wondering ‘what have I done?’

"I have not even been on the field. You start to think, because you are black, why are they not telling these three guys the same thing they are telling me.

“I felt really bad. Emotionally I was down, if I could say to my coach do not put me [in] I would say [it], but I cannot. They were screaming and calling me all sorts of names.

"The coach then called me to go in and play. And when I scored that goal I ran to that same spot where those two guys were standing and I saw them and I did what I did.”

On reflection afterwards he had regretted his own reaction and apologised, but it was difficult given the frustration and anger he felt at the time.

“I did it out of annoyance and bitterness and anger in me,” Nosa added. “I thought of it later and I should not have done it. But I did it at that point in time as I was frustrated.

“Why are they calling me negro, black, monkey… this is what we are talking about, this racism in football. You do not do it. [Mario] Balotelli said it, other black guys have said it. We experience these things, you understand, and at the point in time you cannot control yourself. I am sorry for it.”

Betis defender Paulao spoke publicly about the upset caused to his family after he suffered abuse during a defeat to Sevilla in November 2013. FIFA president Sepp Blatter tweeted that he had been “sickened” by that incident, but Betis limited themselves to another tweet condemning “any violent or racist behaviour.”

Two young Elche ‘ultras’ were fined four thousand euros each and banned from attending sports events for 12 months after Cameroon international Nyom drew attention to abuse during a La Liga game in October 2013.

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