Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Death Threats Force Catalan Athlete to Delete Twitter Account



Sixteen out of the eighteen players chosen to play for the Spanish Field Hockey team at the London 2012 Olympics are Catalan. Last Sunday they beat Argentina, and they are contenders to play the semifinals and maybe win some medal, as they did four years ago when they won the silver medal. Back then, the team that gave the medal to Spain was also composed mostly of Catalan players, and they are on track for another medal this year as well.

However, Spanish online media just targeted all their anti-Catalan hatred on one of the team's player, Àlex Fàbregues, who is wearing the Spanish jersey at the Olympics for the third time. A few days ago, he was interviewed by the Catalan newspaper Ara, where he spoke about how he feels regarding national matters, always in a respectful manner. The interview was entitled When I play, I never think I'm doing it for Spain. His comments would make perfect sense in a diverse, democratic state where freedom of speech is respected. “I play in the Spanish team because there's no other team I can play with, I have no other option. I feel Catalan. I do not feel the same way listening to the Spanish anthem as I do listening to the Catalan anthem (Els Segadors).

These words caused a fierce, intolerant, anti-Catalan backlash among many Spaniards on Twitter. Hundreds of insults and death threats were being hurled around. Some examples are that of @AlexCabo1 (“Alex Fàbregas to the gas chamber!”),  @Juanmy_poli (“Death to Àlex Fábregas! Leave the Spanish team with a rope tied around your neck!”), or @AdriManri (“I pray that Àlex Fàbregas may have a slow and painful death, and that his ears blow up while listening to the Spanish anthem. Viva España.“). Some of the comments even came from other field hockey players in Spain. Because of all this, Fàbregas was forced to close down his Twitter account. As a result, since last Sunday there have been countless displays of support towards him in Catalonia. Some of the hashtags used (#AlexFabregas and #TotsSomÀlexFabregas) became trending topics all over Spain.

There are no indications that any Spanish court may be taking legal actions against the online users who are guilty of hate speech. Indeed, nobody has done anything about it in the past, not even when Barcelona player Cesc Fàbregas was the target of such speech. Neither the Spanish Olympic Committee nor the Spanish Royal Hockey Federation have done anything about it.

From the interview it can be gleaned that Catalan athletes have no other option than to play for the Spanish team when they are called in. Spanish law forces them to play for Spain if they are chosen. If they refuse, that can mean the end of their careers as professional players. According to the Spanish Sports Law, refusal to play for the Spanish Team is a serious offense which can lead to the player being suspended or expelled. On top of this, according to the disciplinary statutes of the Spanish Royal Hockey Federation, they can receive fines of at least 3,000 euros.

So, you see, people in Spain are not even free to chose whether they want to compete in sports or not. It is compulsory.

The fact that some people are being forced to participate, in combination with all the Spanish xenophobic displays against Catalans, is very far from the fraternal ideal that should have been the norm at the London 2012 Olympics.

In a recent development, Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SI), a Catalan pro-independence coalition, just announced that it will support Àlex Fàbregas and other Catalan athletes against this kind of hate speech crime. SI just presented at the Barcelona Hate Speech public prosecutor over two thousand hate-speech tweets directed at Catalans, and it is asking that these crimes be punished according to the law.

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3 comentaris:

  • Arnau Estanyol says:
    August 13, 2012 at 2:59 AM

    Really it's a pity. The relationship between Catalonia and Spain it's broken long years ago. Actually the situation right now only benefits to Spain in many aspects, one of them the sports. Spain forbid the participation in a national Catalan team all those who want practice professionally of sport, threating them with ban their participation and expelling them from all official competition if they refuse play for Spain

    It was a shame to see how Spain manipulated in a scoundrel way the South American countries to expel Catalonia from the international hockey federation. Threating or bribing its members. In the Spanish hockey league only there are two teams out from Catalonia.

    These Olympics Games the Catalan athletes have won more medals than Spaniards. Spaniards know that Catalonia has those advantages and many more. Is for that reason they don't want Catalonia go out from their State. One State the Spanish one, that I would define that it is for Catalonia like a bloodsucker.

    The Catalan athletes get the most of the medals or championships for Spain and Spain pay us with disdain, insults and death threats.

    They are right: Spain is different.

    Please excuse my bad English.

  • help Catalonia says:
    August 19, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Thanks for your comment! Perhaps some day Spain's efforts to block Catalan teams from the international arena will be seen by what they are: threats, bribes, and illegal dealings.

  • Unknown says:
    August 22, 2013 at 11:01 PM

    A ver...si mañana hubiese algun deportista catalan q renegase de jugar con cataluña, como se lo tomarian ustedes? No apoyo, obviamente, amenazas de muerte ni cosas pir el estilo pero muestras y comentarios de desagrado, es normal q haya. Ustedes no entienden q el respeto democrstico se ve cuando hay discrepancia. Respetar no es no poder opinar. Duele q alguien q me representa me desprecie. Y eso provoca rechazo y ese rechazo se manifiesta "democraticamente". El concepto de democracia de algunos en este pais esta algo averiado.

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