"JUAN CALA, WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU" - Valencia refute Juan Cala’s denial of racist abuse


Valencia have refuted Cadiz defender Juan Cala’s denial of racist abuse. In a strongly worded statement, the club has said that they are deeply saddened by Cala’s response, adding that he missed a ‘great opportunity to accept his mistake and apologise’.

Valencia CF are deeply saddened by statements made by Cádiz CF player Juan Cala this Tuesday, in which 48 hours later, he denied racially insulting Mouctar Diakhaby during the LaLiga match played last Sunday at the Ramón de Carranza.

Cala has missed a great opportunity to accept his mistake and apologise to the player affected. Instead of doing this, he attacked both Diakhaby and other members of Valencia CF.

Valencia CF wish to reiterate that we believe our player and back him completely. After the threats made by Cala in his press conference this Tuesday, April 6th, the Club, president Anil Murthy and Mouctar Diakhaby himself remain firm in the conviction to fight to the end, wherever necessary, on the matter for the good of football and society. Valencia CF will not stop fighting for an improvement in protocol and in the battle against racism in football.

The incident

Cadiz and Valencia faced each other during a late afternoon kick off in Spain on Sunday. In the 29th minute both players engaged in an aerial duel for the ball which was collected by the Valencia goalkeeper. As the play developed and both players moved up the pitch, Diakhaby quickly attempted to confront Juan Cala but was held back by another Cadiz defender, Fali. More players swarmed and he was then joined by former Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista. Paulista ushered him away from Cala before the Valencia players left the pitch. Diakhaby had reacted to alleged racial abuse from Cala.

The referee David Medie Jimenez also recorded the incident in his match notes but added that the officiating team had not heard the abuse:

"In the 29th minute, I interrupted the match. Diakhaby, after being shown a yellow card for arguing with an opponent, told me word for word 'he called me shitty black’"

David Medie Jimenez

The Reaction

The players returned to the pitch shortly afterwards. After the game, Valencia defender José Gayà and coach Javi Garcia both confirmed that the players returned to the field because they would have faced sanctions if they did not. Diakhaby is said to have understood that the players ‘had to continue’ but did not return himself. He was described by Gaya as being too ‘down’ (roughly translated).

Valencia coach Javi Gracia: "In the changing rooms we were told if we didn't return, we would be sanctioned. We spoke with Diakhaby, about how he was, and he told us he wouldn't play but he understood perfectly we had to continue to avoid a possible sanction. So we returned."

Yesterday, Diakhaby gave his account of the alleged abuse he faced

"In Cadiz on Sunday, there is a play in which a player insults me and his words are "sh*tty black"'.

"That is intolerable, I cannot consent to that. You all saw my reaction. That cannot happen in normal life and neither in football, which is a sport of respect."

Mouctar Diakhaby

Juan Cala denied the accusation.

“There are 2 options. Either Diakhaby invented it or misunderstood it. The rest is a circus”

Juan Cala

In the same press conference, he added that he had the support of the club as was affirmed to him by the president and that there is ‘no racism in Spanish football’.

“If the league calls for protocol against racism, here's my support. There is no racism in Spanish football."

Juan Cala

He also assured that he had ‘lived with Chinese, South Africans and been in Guinea with [Frédéric] Kanouté and Benjamin [Zarandona].’

Others have come to his defence. The Levante fullback, Coke, shared images of charity work featuring himself, Cala and black children. He stated: ‘I hope all racists dedicate their free time to help in other countries that need it and lead an association to help the Saharawi people, as Juan Cala shows with his actions’


Several issues are clear here - firstly the incident itself. As of now it still is being treated as alleged, yet the fact Valencia’s players faced sanctions for not returning to the field highlights an additional barrier players face when ‘standing up’ to racism, which is the authorities themselves. There is still a lack of empathy and common sense with how authorities manage and respond to racist abuse. This is not a new criticism directed at the Spanish Football Federation. Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him in 2014 by a set of home fans During Barcelona's trip to Villareal. The home side were fined €12,000 (£9,850) by the Spanish Football Federation.

The rhetoric of actively standing against racism cannot hold weight when efforts to do so are penalised. Again, it suggests that the Spanish football Federations tolerance to the issue is not as low as is required - although, they are not alone in this.

Without even addressing the fact that there is little equity to be gained from Diakhaby openly and defiantly making this claim (quite the opposite actually, he'll now be forced to relive this many times over), Juan Cala’s suggestion that he could have made this up is insulting.

His belief that there is no racism in Spanish football underlines the fact that this remains a matter that too many are unwilling to acknowledge. This begs another question - how can you reasonably remedy an issue in which players themselves are unwilling to acknowledge nevermind engage with?

We've spoken about this often regarding the government's stance on racial inequalities in the UK but the same applies here. Almost as an additional kick to the teeth, this is a statement held by one of Diakhaby's fellow professionals.

It’s important to note that messages of encouragement and support may have found their way to Diakhaby but publicly this has not been the case. Other professionals have seemingly taken greater offence to the accusation itself than the prospect that Diakhaby has quite likely been a victim of racist abuse.

Ivan Rakitic, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Asenjo, Alberto Moreno and more have liked Coke’s post in defence of Cala. There is no demonstrable care or interest in the state of Diakhaby. At least publicly, outside of his teammates, this has not been a matter of relevance, rather, the accusation directed toward Cala is the real scandal, meriting visible support.

Though it didn’t arrive from Cala himself, the use of imagery showcasing affiliation to blackness is a tired and lazy tactic that is too often drawn upon to deny and deflect. If we must repeat it, we will do so: proximity to blackness does not negate anti-blackness. Black people, nevermind Black children, are not props to wave away accusations of prejudice and abuse.

In 2018 a similar incident occurred between Iago Aspas and Jefferson Lerma. The same phrase in question was used according to Lerma. Aspas’ denied he made the statement and insisted ‘what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch’.

Last February, Inaki Williams faced abuse not from his fellow professionals but from Espanyol supporters who directed monkey noises at him as he left the pitch. Two Espanyol fans were charged with racial abuse last November. During the investigation that's still ongoing, he explained to a judge that he felt ‘humiliated’ and ‘outraged’ by the ordeal. We've mentioned the incident of a banana being thrown at Dani Alves during Barcelona’s away visit to Villareal. This drew international headlines but the response in terms of actual punishment was meagre. 

It’s been 16 since Samuel Eto’o left the pitch at La Romareda insisting ‘no más’ to the racial abuse he faced from the crowd that day. He was held back by the opposition, teammates, the referee and all before remaining on the pitch. Spanish football is not alone in this struggle, but 16 years on, there’s still much more to do.

Mayowa Ayodele


A call to action...

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