Mouctar Diakhaby and Juan Cala have spoken publicly for the first time since Valencia’s players walked off the pitch in protest at racist abuse allegedly directed at the French centre-back on Sunday.
In a video released on social media, Diakhaby said he was called a “negro de mierda”, which translates roughly as a “shitty black”. But during a prearranged press conference held half an hour afterwards Cala denied abusing his opponent, said he had been the subject of a “public lynching” and threatened legal action against Valencia’s president.
Valencia walked off 29 minutes into their La Liga match against Cádiz on Sunday, only to return and for the game to restart – without Diakhaby. The club released a statement at the time saying the defender did not feel able to play but had asked his teammates to continue. They later issued another statement claiming they had been forced to play by the threat of punishment: that they could have been forced to forfeit the match and have further points docked.
Neither the referee nor his assistants heard the alleged abuse. On Tuesday, though, Diakhaby spoke personally for the first time and confirmed the allegation that he was referred to as a “negro de mierda”.
“Today I feel OK, but it hurt, it hurt a lot,” Diakhaby said. “There is a play in which a player insults me and the words are ‘negro de mierda’. The player says that to me and that’s intolerable. I can’t accept that. You have all seen my reaction. That can’t happen in normal life and especially not in football, which is a sport of respect. After that, my teammates and I decided to go to the dressing room, which was a good decision.”
Diakhaby also said that one of Cádiz’s players approached a Valencia player and asked whether they would return to the field of play if Cala apologised. “My teammates and I said no; it’s not like that,” Diakhaby said. “You can’t do something and apologise and just pass over it like that.”
Cala denied the abuse and the claim that any of his teammates had offered to make him apologise, insisting he would retire from football tomorrow if that were the case. He claimed the only phrase he had directed at Diakhaby was “déjame en paz” (leave me alone) and that he had tried to explain to the Valencia defender that he had not abused him. “He comes to me saying I have said ‘negro de mierda’ and when he is near to me I tell him to calm down,” Cala said. “There are only two possibilities: he has made it up or he has misunderstood me when I turned and said ‘leave me alone’.
“I try to calm him down on two occasions,” the Cádiz defender said. “You see that I hold his face and I say, ‘Calm down, I didn’t say that,’ but he pushes me. I said: ‘Listen to me, I didn’t say that.’ He pushes me again and then the mêlée happens. The referee gives him a yellow card and then he gets angry again. Gabriel is saying what his teammate has said to him and telling them to go off. I have a look of shock, embarrassed at what’s happening. I repeat: never, never did I say, ‘You’re a negro de mierda.’ I did not say it.”
In a half-hour press conference in which Cala talked repeatedly, and often in an elevated tone, about a “circus” and a “show”, he insisted on the lack of proof, complained that he had not been afforded the presumption of innocence, and said his lawyer would begin legal action against all those who had “judged” him. He claimed there were “two victims: the person who is accused and the other person who interprets something as a racist insult” and described on a handful of occasions as being the victim of a “lynching”.
He also said he had wanted to come out and speak immediately, do the touchline interview, speak to “every radio station and every television” on Sunday night, but that Cádiz’s president had told him not to do so. He said he would be taking legal action against Valencia’s president, Anil Murthy, for accusing him “without any evidence” in a “shameful” video.
Valencia said they were “deeply saddened” by Cala comments. “Cala has missed a great opportunity to accept his mistake and apologise to the player affected,” the club said. “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 … 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.”