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  • G. Sarakinis

"Catalonia is not a place for Immigrants," The ugly side of youth futbol.


I haven't written a piece for over a year now and thought it was time to report an incident that happened almost 18 months ago at a match.  Most of my articles have been about what happens on the field but that this event needed to be brought up.  I wanted to see it through the process of what happened and what was going to be done about it.  I am sure many have seen this video that seemed to go around social media not to long ago.

 This is not something new as we have all seen videos in all sports and parents are getting even more carried away with each passing year.  What I witnessed almost 18 months ago was truly shocking.

It involved a player and the mother of the player.  The match was well played and very intense.  As the game went on, it was getting dirtier and tackles were flying everywhere.  The first suspect call happened with the home team.  The player was in an offside position of about 15 metres.  He was sent a ball through, the whole away team just stopped and the striker put the ball away to make it 1-1.  I knew after this call it was going to get ugly as it normally does for whatever the reason is.  About 10 minutes later, the away player was shielding the ball in his own box so the keeper could come out to collect the ball.  The same striker who scored the tying goal pulled the defender's arm and the defender fell to the ground.  The striker tried to get the ball but the referee blew the whistle.  Away team goes to get the ball to take the free kick but the referee blocked them and says he wanted the ball.  They gave it to him and he put it on the penalty spot!!  Everyone was looking around as to what just happened? Even the home team had dropped so they could get in position for the free kick.  The referee had blown a penalty kick.  So of course what ensued after this was the players asking the referee what just happened for the penalty? The referee gave a quick answer with a straight red card to the player and he was sent off!!  Now I thought, "Wow, this shit got real, even though it had to be something unreal that was happening."  The player stepped up to take the kick and now it was 2-1 for the home team.  As the game went on it was getting worse and worse with fouls, yelling, screaming and so on.  The away team ended up tying it 2-2 with about 10 minutes left.  Another few minutes later and the home team went ahead 3-2.  Now of course to run the time out they started going down with injuries, taking kicks slowly etc.  In fact no players were cautioned for slowing the game down but the away team was cautioned a few times for complaining of time wasting.  Near the end with only a few minutes left the home player went down for an injury with nobody around him. Most games only have a referee and NO assistants, so for the most part he has no idea what is happening behind him. Anyways the player that was sent off was dressed in his clothes watching the game with his mother. He got angry and told the player to get up and stop faking.  Now the mom and son were English speaking and that detail will come up later.  When this player yelled at the player to get off the ground, a parent from the opposing team swung at the "sent off" player and got him in the face.  The mom who was in the middle of the two didn't know just what happened and she got a punch to the shoulder from the guy although it was intended for the player and then another punch which sent her to the ground.  Now everybody was trying to break it up, 7-8 guys trying to hold the player back as I think he probably would have killed the 50-60 year old man.   Once things settled down a bit, and the police were called a comment I heard from one of the parents that still sticks out in my mind today was,

"Catalunya no és un país per als immigrants, torni a Anglaterra", basically saying Catalonia is not a country for immigrants, go back to England!

I was shocked to hear this coming from these people.  Not only was a kid and mom hit, they were now being scolded to go back to their country, learn the language, it was their fault what happened etc.  Nowhere in my life had I seen a 16 year old and mom both hit with punches like that. It was truly unbelievable and as I watched on now talking to this player and mom, people were leaving and grown people were laughing at them on their way to their cars as the police had shown up.  Most of the teammates parents of this player didn't get involved either other than one pair of parents, myself and a few other coaches from the club that were there to watch the game.  I actually went to video the incident with my phone and this big bellied guy came up to me face to face and kept hitting me with his belly and told me to get out of there.

The police asked what had happened, and the mother/son told the police and another set of police grabbed the other guy to walk to his car so he could get his ID.  As he approached the mom and son, he actually shouldered the 16 year old with a grin on his face even though he was walking with the police.  The police officer told them to not worry about it.  When it was all said and done, the process here is then they need to go to the police station to fill a report out if you want to press charges but you also have to go to the hospital to get checked out. The police officer informed the mom those were the next steps.  She asked what was happening to the dad who had struck them?  The officer replied, " There is nothing they can do at this point because there are no noticeable injuries, perhaps if there was blood or a broken bone, it might be different.  But there will be no handcuffs for this guy, he can go home!!  I was shocked what was just said and I could see the horror on the mom's face.  Most of the people were gone now and it was just some parents, the player and a couple coaches from both teams.  The coach had asked the player, "Why did you get sent off?" He replied, "why is it a penalty kick?"  The coach said that is it? I am going to check the game sheet when it comes out online to see what it says.  I was thinking myself that he had to have sworn at the ref or something because no ref will send you off for asking.  At that time the opposing coach came over to apologize to both of them on behalf of himself and the club and the parent has been a problem for a long time. 

So what happened from here is that the mother and son end up going to the hospital, they get checked-out and a report is filled out for the police.  The boy had some bruises and some scrapes.  The mother had a sprained hand, bruised shoulder where she was punched and some scrapes when she fell.  Now they have to go to the police station to file the report with this hospital report.  After a few hours there they advise her that everything is filed but they are sure nothing will happen because in most countries this is a crime but here it might end up being a 60€ fine to the individual.  They were sorry but said she would be notified at some point about a possible trial.  They also advised her that she could get a lawyer but the lawyer would cost more than what she could potentially receive.

Now on to the game report, the president of the club was notified but he says he checks all reports Sunday night to see what happened with all of their teams.  He came across this one and saw the sending off.  He clicked it to see what the player was sent off for?  He was actually shocked to read it, it said

"The player was sent off for the following violation, the player had spoken to me in a foreign language that I didn't recognize"

What? The player had spoken in a foreign language? Wow, that was absurd and what was even more absurd was that it was online in a referee's report.  The club appealed it based on a few things as it is not sending off offence, that it was racist etc.  A day later the card was overturned and the two clubs had a meeting about the incident.  In the end the club banned the parent from their home ground and I believe kicked the player off the team as well.  From a sporting perspective things were moving fast and a positive outcome.  Now slowly fast forward around 8 months, the court date had arrived and the mother and son really didn't expect much from the trial.  They wanted some vindication from it.

Both sides presented, although the mother didn’t  really get a chance to speak. The accused parent also had a hospital report that he was struck first and a police report saying the same.  Both sides had witnesses but the defendant's witnesses said that they didn't see any of the events.  Really? Why did they even come?  The other witnesses said they saw most of it and almost exactly what the mother and son said.  At the end a court official stood up to say that both sides had different stories and his recommendation was that it should be thrown out because nothing can be proved?  Hmm really?  Anyways the judge said that the formal ruling will be mailed out to each person's house at a later date.  What do you think the ruling was..........................?  A letter came to them a month later saying that everything was dropped because there was not enough evidence.  The mother and son didn't expect anything else for a ruling and said that they had to chalk it up to a learning experience, the "live and learn" types.  Prior to this situation I have never noticed any prejudices towards English speaking people.  Perhaps I didn't know any better, or didn't understand enough that they were talking about me or was just happy that winters were warmer than Canada.

Now that I understand much more I do see problems out there and of course this is not the norm but interesting none the less. There have been times matches where we are speaking English and people have interrupted our conversation to say this is Spain or Catalonia, so please speak Spanish or Catalan.  Sometimes we haven't even been talking about the game but I am shocked this has happened to me a few times.  I have been in a grocery store and when you speak English sometimes it feels like a pin could drop and be heard because everyone stops to look at where the English is coming from.  I have been involved in a few discussions about these types of behaviour and many are shocking but we'll leave those ones out for another day.  My last point I would like to mention is the recent FC Barcelona-Chelsea return match here in Barcelona.

My son got 3 tickets for himself, his older brother and myself.  He is a Chelsea fan and were pretty good seats based on how close we were to Lionel Messi taking a corner.

 It was another great performance by Messi and didn't realize there were some problems before the game and Chelsea fans getting to their seats.  After the match we were leaving the stadium at the same time as the Chelsea fans just above us .  As you can imagine the Barca fans and Chelsea fans started yelling at each other and it got heated.  Here are some of the festivities

 There were several reports and complaints made to Chelsea FC for a number of reasons.  Even on our way out we got a taste of it.  We were just about to exit onto the street when my son stopped to check his phone. As he stopped a police officer came over and whacked him pretty hard on the hip with his baton and said in Spanish to keep walking.  We were speaking in English and my son was wearing a Chelsea hat but we were doing absolutely nothing wrong.  When he answered to him in Catalan he was almost surprised and the other officer said you did nothing wrong but keep walking.  I guess this behaviour is ok in this country? I certainly don't know how to answer that anymore.  Based on what I see, things are ok I guess and if you have seen any videos from here lately, you would probably agree too.  This piece was a bit different from my others but thought to share it and reflect and see that some things are ok in some places.  There is no other way to put it.  I guess a live and learn experience like the mother and son said to me although all of it is unacceptable. I will leave it at that.

I will be writing more often and my next piece will be on the Catalan Federation's Football Players insurance and the process my son went through with his injury.  Until then, thanks for taking the time to read and please share it with others!


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