On 25 February at the Copa Libertadores match between Racing Club and Bolívar fans of the Argentinian side chanted xenophobic abuse targeting Paraguayan and Bolivian people. In response to the chants the Racing midfielder stopped in front of his side’s supporters asking them to halt the abuse and triggering from the crowds a non-discriminatory chant.
At the end of the match the twenty-three year old said: “I am no one to change chants. Racing fans are great, but as a Paraguayan I do not like to hear this.
“I think they [the fans] got my message and as a result they changed the chant.”
Xenophobia and discrimination are a tangible reality in Argentina. Paraguayan and Bolivian migrants are the most numerous groups of intraregional immigrants in the country and two of the most vulnerable groups in the country, often subjected to discriminatory abuse.
In 2013, the United Nation (UN) Committee on migrant workers expressed concerns at Argentina’s “discriminatory attitudes” against citizens from African and neighbouring countries including Bolivia and Paraguay.
The Committee regretted “statements in the (Argentine) media which associate migrant workers with crime and the abuse of social security benefits, xenophobic statements from politicians and discriminatory actions towards migrant children in schools”.
These behaviours often spill over into football, where discriminatory chants, songs and signs are directed at opposing teams or supporters for their large immigrant fan base or as a normalised form of insult.
Romero’s award came as a way of recognising the role of players in changing attitudes in football and of making of football a platform to educate towards diversity.
In a statement Encontrarse en La Diversidad wrote: “We have witnessed several serious acts of discrimination in football that take different forms from mockery, insults and aggressions, to the stigmatisation of different vulnerable groups.
“Discrimination in football is not a isolated phenomenon and does happen by chance, it reflects a systematic discriminatory behaviour that is naturalised among fan groups”.
Fare and Encontrarse en La Diversidad have partnered-up in 2015 to share best practice on challenging discrimination in football and promoting football as a tool for social inclusion.