The beaning of Seville manager Juande Ramos was briefly touched on last night, and despite Real Betis JosÃ© Leon expressing “sadness at the one-off, isolated incident,” the Guardian’s Sid Lowe is nearly beside himself.
If by isolated and one-off, LeÃ³n meant that only one large, full bottle connected with Ramos’s head, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that Ramos was the only person who staggered on to the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend last night in hospital, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that the man who threw the bottle was the only fan whose aim was true, he was also right. But in every other way, he was completely and utterly wrong. If there is one thing that last night’s event was not it is isolated. And it was not isolated on so many levels.
It was not isolated because missiles are thrown at players, managers, linesmen and referees at virtually every game in Spain and still nothing is done, short of sticking up the odd net. The fines are pathetic, the closure threat left unfulfilled, the culprits left unidentified. The linesman at the Athletic Bilbao versus Betis match a few weeks ago was hit by a tin. Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop was struck by a full beer can at the CalderÃ³n when playing against AtlÃ©tico Madrid last season. And last year’s Copa del Rey tie between Valencia and Deportivo was suspended after the linesman was hit by a coin, splitting his head open. In fact, during last night’s 2-1 win in Zaragoza, Barcelona keeper Albert Joquera was also hit by a bottle.
Spanish football does not suffer the violence that has inflicted Italy, but the throwing of missiles, like racist chanting, is a problem. The paper aeroplanes that dive-bomb their way harmlessly into the turf by the corner flag when the game is at the other end are one thing, but the coins, lighters, bottles, cans, and random obscure objects – olive oil containers, taps from sinks, potatoes thrown from balconies, the infamous pig’s head – are another. Mostly there’s no harm done, mostly there’s no action taken. If only because your average missile-launcher is simply not that good at throwing.
Last night, someone was. But even allowing for a freak moment of accuracy, the bottle that hit Ramos was no isolated, one-off incident. The bottle that hit him was the third to come from the stands during the celebration of Sevilla’s goal alone. Dani AlvÃ©s had already been hit with another bottle while lying on the floor, and the Sevilla president JosÃ© MarÃa Del Nido had been hit in the nose with a coin while taking up his seat in the directors’ box. Then there were the coins, lighters and screws (yes, screws) that came down from the stands – along with the ooh-oohs for black players.