Valencia walked off the pitch in protest at alleged racist abuse directed at defender Mouctar Diakhaby by Cádiz’s Juan Cala on Sunday afternoon, only to come back on again and complete the game without him after being informed they would have to forfeit the points if they did not return.
The La Liga match was stopped after 29 minutes following conversations with the referee, Valencia’s captain José Luis Gayà leading the team off, but it restarted again around 20 minutes later with Diakhaby watching from the stands as his teammates played without him. Cala was not replaced at first, although he was then substituted at half time.
Diakhaby and Cala went in for a challenge together, clashed, and as the Valencia defender was heading back to his position, he suddenly turned and angrily went back towards Cala. As Gabriel Paulista and Kevin Gameiro tried to calm him down and pull him away, cameras caught Paulista saying: “You can’t say Negro de mierda,” , suggesting Cala had said words meaning “shitty black”.
Diakhaby explained to the referee what had been said and Paulista and Gayà led the team off, the players gathering in the lower tier of the stand. The referee, David Medié Jiménez, spoke to Cala who could be seen saying that he had “not done anything.” Some conversations continued between footballers and staff, but Cádiz’s players too headed off – in their case down the tunnel.
A few minutes later, Valencia’s players came out to warm up without Diakhaby. After a five minute re-warm-up, the game started again. Spanish referees do have the authority to stop games in the event of hearing racist abuse.
“Diakhaby told us he heard a racist insult so we all went off the pitch,” said Gayà. “We were told that we had to play because if we didn’t they would take the three points off us and maybe we’d be docked more points. Diakhaby asked us to play on, we wouldn’t have done so if he hadn’t done so. He said he wasn’t in the right state of mind to keep playing. He is devastated.”
Gaya also said he had heard the comment Cala made to Diakhaby.
He added: “It was a very ugly insult which I won’t repeat. We haven’t been able to speak with Cala because he was the last player to leave the pitch. I’m certain that he said something. It was a very strange game.”
Valencia later released a statement saying: “The team has met up and decided to return to the pitch to fight for the badge, but firm in their condemnation of all forms of racism.”
Another tweet soon after said that it had been Diakhaby himself who had wanted the team to continue, although he did not feel in condition to play himself.
“We offer our complete backing to Diakhaby,” the tweet said. “The player, who had received a racial insult, requested that his team-mates return to the pitch. We SUPPORT YOU MOUCTAR.” The remaining 15 minutes were played until half-time, watched from the stands by Diakhaby. Cala continued to play until the break but did not return for the second half as his side won 2-1.
Valencia are expected to make a formal complaint after the game, either with the league or the Spanish football federation, with sanctions likely to follow from there. La Liga issued a statement on Monday morning, saying: “We take any allegation of racism seriously and will work with the clubs and refereeing establishment to do whatever is necessary. La Liga condemns racism in all shapes and forms.”
• This article was amended on 5 April 2021 to insert the missing word “not” in this sentence: “. . . it had been Diakhaby himself who had wanted the team to continue, although he did not feel in condition to play himself.”