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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 13:11 GMT
Spanish minister backs Eto'o
I understand completely why Eto'o did what he did in the game against Zaragoza
Jaime Lissavetzky, Spain's sports minister

Spain's sports minister has said the government will back sterner measures against racist chanting at football grounds.

"We have to end these shameful acts," Jaime Lissavetzky was quoted as saying in the Spanish media on Monday.

The minister's statement follows the monkey chants directed at Barcelona's Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o by a section of Real Zaragoza supporters on Saturday.

Eto'o came close to walking off the pitch before he was retrained by his team-mates.

"We have to be as clear and tough as possible. I understand completely why Eto'o did what he did in the game against Zaragoza."

Meanwhile, a leading Spanish anti-racist organisation has called on professional footballers to delay the start of next weekend's league matches, as part of a plea for tougher action against racism in Spanish football.

"We have asked the Spanish Association of Professional Footballers (AFE) to delay the kick-offs of next weekend's league matches by five minutes.

"This would be a gesture of solidarity towards their colleague Eto'o and as a way of demanding more effective action to eliminate racism from Spanish Football," the Spanish Coalition Against Racism (Cecra) said in a statement.

We shouldn't make a mountain out of a molehill... it is only a very small minority that are racist
Angel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish Football Federation

Cecra, an umbrella group that was asked to speak at Uefa's recent anti-racist conference in Barcelona, insisted that football authorities and the Spanish government had to take tougher action if they were to deal with the problem.

"It is no longer enough to parade banners and show films ahead of matches in our stadiums.

"These abuses constitute a serious risk to professionals who are being humiliated on the pitch.

"This serious problem, which is not just confined to radical fans, is now beyond the control of the clubs."

Erring clubs have been sanctioned with fines of over US$700 by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), which has been criticised as failing to reflect the seriousness of the offence.

But the government-run Anti-Violence Commission has recommended fines of up to $7,000 for individuals identified as being involved in such incidents.

Angel Maria Villar, the RFEF president, closed a Uefa anti-racist conference in Barcelona this month by saying that the problem should not be given too much attention.

"We shouldn't make a mountain out of a molehill," he said in his speech.

"Things that take place on the pitch should be left there.

"It is only a very small minority that are racist and we shouldn't emphasise the negative, instead we should be stressing the positive aspects of football."


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