Real Betis supporters’ vile chants prove we can’t continue to let sexism in football go unnoticed

By Aarony Zade.

The Spanish club’s fans singing in support of domestic violence may have gone largely unreported in recent weeks but it’s highlighted our responsibility to keep tackling the ugly side of the beautiful game.

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In the same week as the Paris metro incident when some Chelsea supporters allegedly prevented a black man from boarding a train and footage of West Ham fans’ anti-Semitic chants before their 2-2 draw against Tottenham hit the headlines, another episode involving Real Betis was conspicuous by its absence.

Perhaps events at Estadio Benito Villamarin have simply been overshadowed. But the equally appalling videos of fans singing pro-domestic violence songs in support of Ruben Castro – who is facing two years behind bars after being charged by Spanish prosecutors for assaulting and sending threatening text messages to his ex-girlfriend – also warrant column inches.

Whilst Castro awaits his hearing, he is still playing for Betis. In their recent draw with Ponferradina, a vile chorus of “Ruben Castro, it was not your fault, she was a w****, you did well!” rang out from Betis ultras behind the south stand.

The video was uploaded to YouTube on 9 February, yet it wasn’t picked up on by media outlets, including Marca and Tele Cinqo, until the chants were heard again in their home match against Girona almost a fortnight later. Real Betis president Juan Carlos Ollero quickly distanced the Spanish side from the footage, insisting “those fans do not represent the club”, before rather bizarrely adding it was a “personal matter” for the player and the club.

While Real Betis ultras, Supporters Gol Sur, denied affiliation with the chant, despite it coming from their part of the ground. However, there can be no hiding from this shameful episode after it was reported to the Anti-violence committee, who are believed to have suggested partial stadium closure as punishment.

It’s not the first time Betis fans have been in trouble. In 2013 the ultras disgraced the club by racially abusing their own player, Brazilian defender Paulao. Fifa president Sepp Blatter hit out at the supporters on Twitter but he’s yet to comment in this instance, despite admitting they must do more to tackle gender inequality in the game.

We are not doing enough to tackle these issues. There have not been many calls to prevent Castro from playing again, if he’s found guilty, or for the chanting fans to be dealt with by law. Such pleas have as much to do with improving the game as they do with the fight to stop violence against women. Modern football must be inclusive of everyone regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. These incidents throw the campaign against all forms of prejudice in sport backwards.

We must also consider the alleged victim. Imagine what it’s like to be the woman on the receiving end of those chants? What must be going through her head when she hears hundreds singing in support of the accused? The attention is so focused on the individual, the club and the supporters, that the victim and her well-being seems to have been overlooked.

Spanish FA chiefs insists they take a zero-tolerance approach, but repeated incidents are making a mockery of those claims. There’s an argument for closing sections of grounds, but singling out fans and criminalising such acts would be more effective than fines and bans. If this week has taught football fans anything, it’s that the prolonged war against prejudice is far from over.

Follow @aaronyzade

1 Comment on Real Betis supporters’ vile chants prove we can’t continue to let sexism in football go unnoticed

  1. Fantastic, important article Aarony. Just a pity as ever that pieces like this have to get written. I can’t believe such actions were so under-reported in the Spanish press, and that the Spanish authorities and Betis itself seem so lackadaisical in doing anything about this.

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