Madrid (AFP) – Valencia’s players walked off during their La Liga game with Cadiz on Sunday in protest against racist abuse, with coach Javi Gracia later claiming they were told they would be punished if they refused to resume the match.
The fixture was stopped in the 37th minute after Valencia said their player Mouctar Diakhaby was the victim of a racial insult.
Diakhaby had been involved in a heated exchange with Cadiz’s Juan Cala before indicating to the referee David Medie Jimenez that he was leaving the field.
The Frenchman’s team-mates followed him off and Cadiz also went down the tunnel soon after.
Around 15 minutes later, the Valencia team returned and a further five minutes afterwards, the game restarted, this time without Diakhaby.
Diakhaby was replaced by Hugo Guillamon and watched the second half sitting in the stands.
“In the changing rooms we were told if we didn’t return, we would be sanctioned,” said Gracia, who would not specify who had made the threat.
“In that moment, we spoke with Diakha, about how he was, and he told us that he wouldn’t play but he understood perfectly we had to continue playing to avoid a possible sanction, so we returned.”
Valencia defender Jose Gaya also told Spanish television after the game: “He (Diakhaby) told us he was insulted in a racist way. We went back out to play because they told us they could penalise us with three points and something more. He asked us to go back, he’s gutted, it was a very ugly insult.”
Valencia had earlier indicated it was Diakhaby’s decision that the team return to the pitch.
– ‘I believe in my player’ –
The club wrote on social media shortly after the game resumed: “The team have held a meeting and decided to continue the game, in order to fight for the honour of the club, but denounce racism of any kind.
“We offer our complete backing to @Diakhaby_5. The player, who had received a racial insult, requested that his teammates return to the pitch. We support you Mouctar.”
Cadiz coach Alvaro Cervera said Cala insisted he had not racially insulted Diakhaby.
“We returned to the changing room, we talked,” Cervera said.
“Cala said that at no time did he insult the player. I believe in my player.”
La Liga would not comment on the incident after the match.
An official complaint from Valencia or mention of the incident in the referee’s report could lead to further investigation and sanctions against Cadiz.
President of the Valencian regional government Ximo Puig wrote on Twitter: “Equality and rejection of racism. That is the most important match. A hug to Diakhaby. This is his house, his land.”
The exchange occurred after a tussle between Diakhaby and Cala in Valencia’s penalty area.
As Cala ran back to his own half, the pair continued to argue, with Diakhaby suddenly sprinting towards Cala, who was standing close to the halfway line.
Several players rushed over to separate them, with Gabriel Paulista among those shouting at the referee.
Diakhaby was visibly distressed and his reaction earned him a yellow card.
After being escorted away, Diakhaby spoke individually with the referee before walking off, together with Gabriel.
The Cadiz players waited a few minutes longer before also leaving the pitch.
The referee was not close to the argument between Diakhaby and Cala, and Gracia said “there was no record from the referee that this had happened”.
Cala was then also substituted at half-time, having earlier scored the opening goal for Cadiz, with Kevin Gameiro equalising for Valencia.
Cala’s replacement Marcos Lopez scored a late winner to secure a 2-1 victory for Cadiz.
Last month, Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams gave evidence in court as part of an investigation into Espanyol fans racially insulting him during a match in January last year.
In December 2019, a second tier game between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete was suspended after Albacete refused to come out for the second half following chants from Rayo fans calling their striker Roman Zozulya a Nazi.
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