The Cadiz defender accused of racially insulting an opponent in a La Liga match this weekend said he deserves to be presumed innocent.
Juan Cala made his first public comments on Monday, a day after he was accused of insulting Valencia player Mouctar Diakhaby in Cadiz’s 2-1 home win on Sunday.
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Valencia’s players walked off the field after Diakhaby said he was insulted, but eventually returned. The club said the squad was threatened by the referee with a possible loss of points if they didn’t resume playing.
“Apparently the presumption of innocence doesn’t exist in this country,” Cala told the television channel Deportes Cuatro. Speaking briefly as he arrived at the team’s facilities in southern Spain, Cala said he will soon share his version of what happened.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to hide,” he said after he and Diakhaby made front-page headlines across Spain. The team announced that the player will speak at a news conference after the team’s training session on Tuesday.
Some of his teammates and Cadiz coach Alvaro Cervera defended Cala on Sunday. The coach said Cala told him he never insulted anyone during the game. The club had said it condemned racism but it could not “comment on incidents that arise between players during the course of play.”
Valencia president Anil Murthy reiterated the club’s desire for a thorough investigation and called for changes to how these situations are handled. Valencia published a video with Murthy standing next to Diakhaby and saying that the player was “very hurt” by what happened and did not “wish to speak at this time.”
“This incident cannot be left behind, and cannot be repeated with any other player for any other team,” he said. “We are saddened that, following the incident, there was no reaction to stop the game, and that it was our players who were the ones to leave the field of play. There cannot be a lack of action in light of these types of situations. From now on, we would like to see some kind of reaction to change these protocols, in order to protect those who are vulnerable. If we don’t change this, then it will give a bad example to everybody.”
He said the club spoke with the Spanish league and encouraged it to see its “investigation through to the end.” The league had earlier condemned “all shapes and forms” of racism.
“We take any allegation of racism seriously and will work with the clubs and refereeing establishment to do whatever is necessary to protect the values of equality and respect that prevail in our Spanish professional football competition,” the league said in a statement.
Murthy directly accused Cala of insulting Diakhaby.
“We witnessed a flagrant incident of racism. There is no other way to describe it. Diakhaby was the recipient of an extremely serious racial insult by Juan Cala,” Murthy said. “Although Cala may deny it, we are all able to recognize a look of guilt, and we believe Mouctar completely,” he said.
“This type of behavior should not be tolerated in football and in society in general.”
Referee David Medie Jimenez said in his match report that after the confrontation between the players, Diakhaby told him that he had been insulted. Jimenez included the racist words reported by Diakhaby in his summary but said they were not heard by anyone among the officiating crew. Jimenez said that a few minutes after the match was suspended, officials from Valencia and Cadiz told him that they decided to continue playing the game. He did not mention telling Valencia players that they were risking the possible loss of points.
“We’ll fight until the end to clarify what happened, defend our player and eradicate racism!” Valencia said on Twitter.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Monday called for “zero tolerance” against racism.
“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened in that game, but it’s clear that we need to deal with racism with zero tolerance,” he said. “We need to respect each other, that’s the most important thing.”