“Racism in Spanish football comes straight from the stands”19 May 2008

Interview with Atletico Madrid’s assistant manager Nacho Ambriz

Nacho Ambriz who operates at Atletico Madrid as Javier Aguirre’s ‘Man Friday’ and confidante had a successful season in the Primera Division. His team finished only 3 points behind FC Barcelona and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Ambriz, who represented his native country Mexico as a player at the FIFA World Cup 1994 and coached Mexico at the World Cup 2002 in Japan and Korea, talks to FAREnet.org about the problem of racism in the Spanish league and about football in his home country. The interview was conducted by Oscar Sanchez.

FARE: How would you describe the way racism manifests itself in Spanish football?

Racism in Spanish football comes straight from the stands. It shows itself in the abuse that is frequently hurled at your team, especially the foreign players, regardless of whether they’re having a bad game or playing well. Racism comes from the stands – that’s where we’ve got to start changing things, because the fans are the twelfth man.

FARE: What was your experience of racism like in Mexico?

Racism manifests itself differently in Mexican football. It’s more of a social class kind of racism. You tend to encounter it more off the pitch and not inside the grounds.

FARE: What do you think of the FARE campaigns against racism in football?

I think they’re very good, as they’re always targeted at the fans and the players themselves. It would be good if there were also initiatives like this in Latin America.

FARE: Have you ever experienced racism as a coach in Spain?

Me and Javier (Aguirre) sometimes get sworn at for being Mexican by other teams’ fans, and if we lose…

FARE: How do the Atletico Madrid fans behave at your own ground, the Estadio Vicente Calderon?

That always depends on how we’ve played. If we’ve played badly, there are all kinds of abuse. However, if we’ve lost but put in a good, battling performance, they cheer us, which is a very nice way of supporting the club.

FARE: What are the differences between Spanish and Mexican football?

Spanish football is played at a faster pace and the games are more intense. Mexican football is more about technical skill. There are a lot more competitions played per season here in Europe than there are in Mexico. It’s a huge difference for the players.

FARE: Do you see your future as a coach being in Mexico?

My future at the moment is at Atletico Madrid. I’m loyal to Javier Aguirre, as I can learn a lot from him, both as a coach and as a friend. We work now since nearly 7 years together in Mexico with the national side, then at Osasuna and now at Atletico Madrid.

FARE: What aspirations do you have for yourself in football?

To always play fair and never to lose my passion for football, as it’s my life.

FARE: Thanks a lot for taking time out to talk to us.

Normally I don’t give any interviews. Javier plays first fiddle here and I’m just a musician who accompanies him.