Madrid 2016 Bid Concerned About Racism Claims

The BBC reports Atletico Madrid’s Champions League group match against Liverpool is likely to go ahead in the Spanish capital.

European soccer’s ruling body had ordered Atletico Madrid Tuesday to play its next two Champions League home games at a neutral venue because of violent and racist behaviour by the club’s fans during a game against Marseille this month, reports the Associated Press. The Spanish league club was fined more than $200,000.

Mercedes Coghen, head of Madrid 2016, appealed Wednesday to the country’s soccer federation and its players “to work for Spain because what affects us affects everybody”.

Atletico reportedly has denied all claims of racism, saying that UEFA officials confused chants of “Kun, Kun, Kun”, in support of the club’s striker Sergio Aguero, whose nickname is “Kun”, with monkey cries.

Atletico’s ban will stand but UEFA wants to avoid Reds fans having to change their plans for the October 22 game.

Atletico has until 1100 BST Friday to appeal its ban, and UEFA hopes to announce a decision that will satisfy all parties.

Options include putting the ban on hold so the match goes ahead at the Vicente Calderon stadium, or possibly staging it at another stadium in the “Madrid area”.

If Atletico does appeal the Madrid club will receive the full backing of the Spanish government, reports the BBC.

Spain’s Minister of Interior Affairs, Alfedo Perez Rubalcaba said, “I will defend the actions of the police. We will hand all the material that we have available to Atletico so they can appeal against this unusual decision”.

The club’s coach Javier Aguirre has been banned from the sidelines, the tunnel, and the dressing room, and is forbidden from communicating with his team during the matches against Liverpool on October 22 and at Anfield on November 4.

Atletico hopes video evidence will show there were no insults of a racist or xenophobic nature directed at any Marseille play, reports the BBC.

The club says its supporters have no prior record of such behaviour and that, in relation to Aguirre’s ban, the coach did not hurl insults at any Marseille player.

The Associated Press reports it’s the second racially charged matter in recent months involving Spanish sports. The men’s basketball team posed in a publicity photo with players using fingers to apparently make their eyes look more Chinese. The photo appeared during the Beijing Olympics, and continued to be used for publicity purposes in Spain long past the Games.

Also, England is reportedly refusing to play an exhibition game against Spain in Madrid in 2009 because its players were racially taunted during a game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in 2004. FC Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o was racially abused in a Spanish league match at Zaragoza two years ago, reports the Associated Press.