Except for error or omission, the first dark-skinned player in our football must have been Francisco Betancourt, a Barcelonan son of a Cuban father and a Catalan mother, whom I met when, when he was very old, he was a regular at the Barça veterans association, which was then chaired by Kubala. Born in Barcelona in 1913, he was a skilled right winger who excelled in Badalona, went to Sabadell and arrived at Barça at the age of 28. He played there a couple of seasons, the 42-43 and 43-44, neither fully starting nor at all substitute, leaving the appreciable balance of 24 games and 11 goals. I remember him as a kind old man, who spoke fondly of the football of those years. He didn't tell me to ever be harassed of any kind.
All articles by Alfredo Relaño
After Betancourt, the first black player to come from abroad was Larbi Ben Barek, born in 1914 in Casablanca, in what was then French Morocco, but with an entirely black skin. Coming from the Stade Français in Paris, he brought to Atlético the great Helenio Herrera when he was already 34 years old. There is a belief, almost certainty, that Helenio Herrera altered his date of birth by two years to make him look younger, which he did some time ago with himself. It was an interior in the classic WM, player of construction and arrival, of extraordinary skill and pitch, that lifted the audience from their seats. In six seasons, in which he played 114 games with 58 goals, he won the League and the Eva Perón Cup, antecedent of the Super Cup. Any athletic fan of the classic period would place him in the ideal eleven of the history of the team of his loves, although away from home he did not yield so much. His participation in a 3-6 against Madrid in Chamartín, signing one of his three goals with a dance dedicated to the Real Madrid members of the North fund, was his peak moment.
With Ben Barek, along with Chicha, another black Moroccan who played for Atlético Tetuán, a cliché was established in Spain that would last for many years that associated the black player with the type of skilled dribbler, but with fear of hard defenders, always better in front of his audience than on the move, with a lot of ingenuity although somewhat discontinuous. Chicha was seen six seasons in the fields of Second Division and a fleeting in First, the 51-52. In a match in the old Les Corts he scored a penalty to Ramallets that by the description I have read colijo that it was an advance of what we now know as Panenka's penalty. He was also from Casablanca and retired in the 56-57, with 133 games and 53 goals, of which 11 scored in his only season in Primera.
Then came Walter, inaugurating a series of very striking imports of Valencia, which brought him in the 57-58 by the hand of a technician, Enrique Cubells, who crossed the pond in search of a 'crack'. First he noticed Pelé, but discarded him because of his very young age. Walter followed the line of skillful and fearful striker, better for home than away. It ended tragically, when his car crashed into the back of a soda truck on the road to El Saler when, in the company of Coll and Socrates, they were going to Sueca, to celebrate the birthday of the latter. It happened on June 21, 1961 and caused a great national impact and real commotion in Valencia, where the public had grown fond of it. He left a widow and a five-year-old son. Valencia paid him a great tribute with a match against Fluminense whose collection was delivered to the widow. The stadium was filled to the brim and that same day the club ché discovered in the rival the substitute, the great Waldo, powerful striker, frontman, with a great shot, and an advance of all the Brazilians who would come later, such as Vavá, Indio or Didí, who threw the free kicks with a unique technique, called 'folha seca', that produced astonishment.
In spite of everything, he could not fit into the Madrid of that time: his football did not fit with that of Di Stefano. And he left the stamp that the club of Concha Espina did not test the blacks, that it would be renewed already deceased Bernabéu, when the second attempt, the English Laurie Cunnigham, failed.
Laurie Cunningham celebrates a goal during a La Liga match between Real Madrid and Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu.Peter Robinson (PA Images/Getty)
Another team in which the black players had a good fit in those first sixty was Atletico, where the Angolan Jorge Mendoza was a figure and the Guinean Jones rendered great services. The first was a splendid striker, a tall mulatto, with excellent stride, enormous class and excellent header. It had a game very similar to the one I later saw in Kluivert father, with the singularity of always playing with a knee brace, a detail that gave it a peculiar dandy touch. With Atlético he won the Cup twice, once the Cup Winners' Cup and once the League. That of the early sixties was one of the best teams that Atlético had in its history, a balanced and harmonious team with nerve and quality. One night of the Fairs Cup, Mendoza scored such a goal against Dinamo Zagreb in the old Metropolitano that the public took to the field to take him out on his shoulders like a bullfighter.
His influence in football extended beyond his retirement, as Mallorca left him to owe a significant amount of money and he put a long lawsuit that ended in the Supreme Court and created jurisprudence by recognizing the players as employees. That was the first stone for the creation of the AFE.
With Mendoza he played in Atlético Miguel Jones, Guinean, son of a notable of Equatorial Guinea, at the time Spanish province, who became a procurator in the Cortes of Franco. He studied in Bilbao, where he was seen playing Fernando Daucik, coach of Athletic. His permanence in the Athletic, then formed entirely not by Basques, but almost absolutely by Biscayans, was impossible no matter how hard Daucik tried, although it was a lot Daucik, and he went to Basconia and from there to Indauchu, which with him was third in the Second Division thanks in part to his 15 goals. In the 59-60 Daucik had passed to Atletico and signed him. He started in the two victories in the Cup, both at the Bernabéu and against Madrid (1960 and 1961), and in the Cup Winners' Cup. He was the first black Spanish player. He wasn't a star, but he was a lot more than just another player.
Llaudet's black chauffeur
After the 1962 World Cup in Chile, in which Spain disappointed as was common at the time (those of 1954 and 1958 did not even qualify) it was decided to close the importation of foreigners with no exception other than those who could prove Spanish ancestry, which could hardly have done a black player. That was a sieve that gave rise to the expression 'false natives'.
And yet, a black Brazilian did pass through here in that period, and it sounds good. It was a somewhat funny case, which included the first purely racist expression in our football, pronounced by Enrique Llaudet, president of Barça, whose slip today would be unimaginable.
Llaudet signed Silva, Brazil's centre forward at the 1966 World Cup in England. That was not a good World Cup for the Brazilians, prematurely eliminated by the kicks that knocked Pele out of combat, but Silva was a good player. A fast, powerful striker, with his doses of Brazilian magic. He wasn't Pele, but he was a figure. His hiring was messy. He belonged to Flamengo, but was on loan to Corinthians, so Llaudet made numerous trips. A novel. In the end he signed him for $ 180,000, an amount that had never been delivered in Spain by any player, plus $ 20,000 for him, which made him the best paid in our football. Of course, as the borders were still closed, just in case, he made him a contract of a single year, extendable to five at the will of Barça.
When asked what he was going to do with the player if he could not finally register him, he blurted out a phrase that even then looked unhappy.
- It's the same. I will put him as a driver. I've always wanted to have a black chauffeur.
A reasonable man, a few days later he saw that he had taken a swing and tried to rectify himself, saying that if that were the case he would not mind being Silva's driver.
The player, aware that he could not line up, delayed the coming. In the end, he barely played a handful of friendlies. And Barça ended up reselling it in Brazil: to Bangú, for 100,000 dollars, which lost 80,000. It was a ruinous operation.
At that time, blacks were not disturbed in the Spanish camps. They were viewed with the sympathy of the exotic. There were very few, most of the teams had none and if they received insults they had nothing to do with racism. Most were strikers, who tend to provoke less anger from rivals than defenders, although that is not the case with Vinicius. There were so few blacks in Spain that when two met on the street they greeted each other and chatted. Racism was not an issue in Spain, basically because there was no one other than our race in the country except a handful of footballers who would not fill two taxis.
From that period I have only recorded one incident, which occurred in an extreme situation. It was the last match of the 50-51 League, between Sevilla and Atlético, in the old Nervión. Sevilla would be champions if they won, otherwise Atlético would be. The match ended 1-1, with a very controversial goal disallowed to Sevilla by Azón, who estimated that the ball had left the baseline before the final pass. As the players were leaving, a savage threw a brick at Ben Barek, author of Atletico's goal, while shouting something like "Go back to your country, you shit nigger!" Let's say that a guy capable of throwing a brick is not common, he is not part of the mass, even if he takes refuge in it. In that sense, we could say that such an insult was at the time as rare as the throwing of a brick.
The first sub-Saharans
The borders were finally opened for the 73-74, after Barça commissioned a young lawyer, Roca Junyent, years later one of the fathers of the Constitution, a complete report on all the irregularities that accompanied the signings of natives, either false as such, or with covert internationality in their origin. The report was devastating and the pact was not to make it public in exchange for opening the borders. Barça brought Cruyff and Sotil, Madrid Netzer and Mas, Atletico Ayala and Heredia...
And Valencia, faithful to the line started with Walter and continued Waldo, incorporated a great black striker, Salif Keita, signed from Olympique de Marseille, the first African Ballon d'Or. He was a native of Mali, played as a center forward and debuted in the selection of his country with 16 years. A newspaper received him with a very unfortunate title: 'Valencia goes for Germans and returns with a black', something against which he politely protested. He was sensational, a juggler of the ball, although he sinned of individualism, a condition that for a long time accompanied the sub-Saharan footballers, whose concept of football was more playful than tactical at that time. He debuted with two goals against Oviedo and left as best memory a sensational goal to Atlético de Madrid, with the area strewn with rojiblancos fallen by his dribbles. He was beaten a lot, suffered injuries and in the third year was sold to Sporting Lisbon to make room for Kempes, whose imposing presence somewhat clouded his memory.
During that first year of importation was the only one in First Division, but not in Spanish football because Sevilla, which was caught in the Second Division, hired Biri-Biri, from Gambia, with whom he would return to the First a season later. In Seville it was the bomb. He was signed from Danish 1901 Nykobing, where he was after a failed foray into Derby County. He was very fast, seemed to disappear from a place to corporeizarse ten meters beyond, and finished well in front of the goalkeeper. Fearful, yes, and it was to be, because they beat him a lot. He is famous for his "Señor Benito, no me pegue más", addressed to the terrible Madrid centre-back. He only stayed four years, but his memory was so indelible that the main animation group of Sevilla is called 'Los Biris'.
Two years later, once the Argentines Ayala and Heredia were nationalized, Atlético looked again at Brazil and brought Leivinha, very blunt, and Luis Pereira, both of Palmeiras, who astonished in the Carranza. Luis Pereira was not a striker, as almost all Brazilians brought to date had been, but a libero of unknown quality to date, with a permanent smile, a green necklace of plastic beads and a rare conjunction of playful and tactical sense of the game. Always well placed, with a perfect 'timing' for the crossing, no hardness and a mocking air even for his own. He took extreme risks in his own area, from which he always came out well. It fell phenomenally to all audiences, even reversed bad passions. On one occasion they threw a can of beer at the Bernabéu, he picked it up, took a drink and turned anger into ovation. The same thing happened in Mestalla with an orange that was thrown at him, which he took from the ground and gave him a bite. Sometimes they sang to him that "the black buzz is coming, dancing happily the foxtrot ...", I always understood that without bad intention. He won a Cup and a League, returned to Brazil in 1980, but eventually settled in Madrid, where he has been president of the club's subsidiary. Like Ben Barek, every athletic with a long look at time would include him in the club's historic eleven.
Madrid's second failure
In the 79-80 season, Luis de Carlos, who fell by consensus the task of succeeding as president of Madrid to Bernabéu, who died in the summer of 1978, threw the house out the window to bring an Englishman of Jamaican descent, Laurie Cunningham. A pearl at the end. Madrid delivered a record transfer, 195 million, to join him with Juanito, Santillana, Del Bosque, Pirri, Benito, Camacho ...
It was a marvel of technique and speed, but apocade. He did not integrate well, he came with a girlfriend who wanted to go out every night and, to make matters worse, he suffered a stomp that broke his big toe and the operation did not succeed at all, so he lost some speed. He made a prodigious game at the Camp Nou, which was delivered to him and applauded to rage in a precedent of what would happen years later, conversely, with Ronaldinho at the Bernabéu. He starred in some lucid plays, some very personal corners, with the outside of the foot, as Modric hits him now, and little performance. It was a failure almost of the dimensions of Didí, who deepened the idea that blacks could never serve Madrid. After completing the four years of contract he went to Sporting, where he bounced, rolled by teams, arrived at Rayo and crashed one bad day at dawn on the A-6. He was 33 years old and still active.
From the World Cup in Spain, played in the summer of 1982, three Hondurans remained in the country, goalkeeper Arzu (Racing de Santander), defenders Costly (Malaga) and Gilberto (Valladolid) and striker Figueroa (Murcia). But it remained above all N'Kono, the colossal goalkeeper of Cameroon, who signed Espanyol. A panther of enormous stature, lightning speed and extreme agility. A gifted physique. In principle, a little crazy, capable of giving away absurd goals that he combined with incredible saves. Always with long pants, which accentuated its differential condition. He arrived at Espanyol with 27 years and remained until he was 36, when he left for Sabadell, in Second.
His wake paved the way for others, favored by the new prestige achieved by the figure of the black goalkeeper, who was previously distrustful. Thus, Depor offered its goal to Songóo, also Cameroonian, for five seasons starting in 96-97. And already in 2002-2005 Espanyol signed Kameni, gold medal with Cameroon in Sydney 2000.
Very striking, although fleeting, was the case of another Englishman, Dalian Atkinson, the first black to sign the Real. He arrived for the 90-91 and was very well received, he became so popular that San Sebastián nicknamed him 'Txipiron'. That year La Real had qualified for UEFA and was greatly reinforced, with him, Aldridge and Richardson, also English. But the thing did not fit, the team made a very bad first round, was eliminated early from the Cup and the UEFA Cup and in the League finished in the second half of the table. He was irregular, neither better nor worse in general than the rest of the squad, but he returned to England. He also died tragically, already retired, but before the age of forty, from three taser shots and two kicks to the head, which caused the offending policeman to be accused of homicide. They had received a call from the father, because the son had a nervous breakdown and the result was that.
An ugly custom learned from England
The number of black players in the league began to skyrocket in the 90s. The limit for signing foreigners was extended, the Bosman law was ruled and there was more money for signings, from the appearance of paid football through Canal +. It went from contemplating isolated cases, players who were looked at with sympathy, to each team having a black player in their ranks, or some, progressively up to many. And the hobbies visited begin to incorporate an ugly custom learned from England.
The number of black players in the league began to skyrocket in the 90s. The limit for signing foreigners was extended, the Bosman law was ruled and there was more money for signings, from the appearance of paid football through Canal Plus. It went from contemplating isolated cases, players who were looked at with sympathy, to each team having a black player in their ranks, or some, progressively up to many. And the hobbies visited began to incorporate an ugly custom learned from England.
At the end of the eighties, TVE began to offer matches of the English league, where they were then going through what we now live here. There the black players had a hard time. There was no need to go outside: even their own hobbies made them cry the monkey or threw bananas or peanuts when they ran around the sideline, let alone when they played outside. Someone told me that when Seedorf made his contract with Madrid he demanded a resolution clause in case of suffering racist attacks by his own public, which if so would mean that he was scalded from origin.
In 1990 I read a report in EL PAÍS, signed by José Miguélez, perhaps the first knock. Four Nigerians, three from Castilla, Ohen, Oladimeji and Mutiu, and the goalkeeper of Rayo, Wilfred, were already complaining of obvious abuse. They were insulted for their color in all fields and the three of Castilla, to greater dismay, were offended with racist contempt by their own teammates as soon as there were bad results or the discussions of the dressing room. They were even surprised that when they walked down the street they were sometimes asked if they sold drugs. They chose to leave home as little as possible.
Older than his teammates, goalkeeper Wilfred, who played for Rayo from 1990 to 1996, took it with more resignation. Maybe the goal gave it to him. Not much is noticed in what all goalkeepers have to listen to for those fields of God, with the fans in the background, always the most exalted, behind. Lately, a video recorded at the Bernabéu has been resurrected, in which Wilfred has to turn a deaf ear to the continuous shouting of the ultrasur: "Black, bastard, pick up the cotton!" or "Ku-klux-klan, Ku-klux-klan". There was no penalty. What had been normal in England a few decades ago was being normalized here when it was ceasing to be normal there.
Wilfred catches a ball during a Rayo Vallecano match.Diario AS Participation
Since then the ball has not stopped rolling, not even before the fact that the National Team has had players of color. Donato was the first; He debuted with Clemente in November 1994, against Denmark (3-0, with a goal of his own) and played 12 games, with presence in the group of the European Championship in England, in 1966. Then, Engonga, Catanha and Senna, who was a key player in the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, in 2008; then Iñaki Williams and Adama Traoré, and in the last World Cup, Balde and Nico Williams, whose brother, Iñaki, seeing that he no longer counted for the Spanish national team, chose that of his country of origin, Ghana. The two play naturally and profitably in the Athletic, where before them two did Ramalho, a Barakaldés of Cape Verdean origin.
There are so many that it is impossible to number them, although perhaps they can classify them. Donato belongs to the category of media with strength, good tactical positioning and also technique. It is no longer just more or less discontinuous artists, but also men on whom to build the team's chassis. With Donato played Mauro Silva and for the same task also came to Depor Flavio Conceiçao. Guardiola himself had Yaya Toure and Keita in the middle. Capello organized his second Real Madrid project on Diarra and Emerson. Madrid Galactico suffered greatly when they let Makelele out. There has also been no shortage of great attacking stars, some so shining as to win golden balls, such as Rivaldo, Henry (the one who inspired Luis to "tell that black shit: I'm better than you", in a motivational talk to Reyes), Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Benzema... Or one who went astray, like Robinho. Figures who put their audiences on their feet, such as Finidi or the most discontinuous Denilson, silent scorers such as Kanouté or irrepressible full-backs such as Roberto Carlos, Alves or Marcelo. Roberto Carlos has had a hard time many years at the Camp Nou, with the guttural sound of the monkeys chanted at hand, without anyone worrying. Alves has seen some bananas fall.
Today all the teams have them. The hobbies accept them in their own, as useful supports, but when they have them in front of them they zahieran them with their race, which expresses the intimate feeling that that skin color makes them inferior, as halfway between the monkey and the man. Sometimes even the name of a black player has been used to insult a white man: "Luis Enrique, your father is Amunike!"
Every insult is left over. But the white man is insulted in another way, some way of degrading him is sought, which has to do with his wife, his mother, his age, his baldness, his fatness ... He is told things that make him feel bad because there is a convention that it is worse to get horned, that your mother is a whore, that your hair falls out or that you are too fat to play football than the opposite. But when you choose the word black as an insult—"Black shit...!" — is that you consider that being black is worse than not being black and that is exactly racism.
These days the Eto'o case has come to light again. It dates from 2006. He made a threat to leave, the referee, Esquinas Torres, restrained him, explained the protocol, Rijkaard, the coach, insisted that he stay and he accepted. The match was completed and Esquinas Torres recorded it in the minutes, but he was not happy. "Actually, the protocol has as its main objective that the match is completed, not the reparation to the player. In its writing beats that purpose, not what it should have, "he tells me.
Alvaro Maior tries to convince Samuel Eto'o not to leave the field after receiving racist insults in a Barcelona match against Zaragoza in the 2005-2006 season.
The match could be terminated, but that resolution is not implemented, or is applied very little because this issue does not shake the fiber of society. This newspaper published four years ago a study signed by Daniele Grasso and Borja Andrino on 34,200 minutes of First, Second or Cup matches from 2003 to the date of publication, December 2019. Among those 34,200 records examined, there are only 68 that reflect racist episodes. It is implausible, nobody can believe that only in such a minimal percentage of parties, 0.19%, racist insults have occurred in those years. The study reflects exactly the situation: environmental indifference to a racist attitude not so minority that is repeated in our fields.
When England has returned, we are still on the outward journey, unfortunately. Today it's time to brake and reverse, but the consequences will last.
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