Luis Aragonés and Thierry Henry: the infamous “negro de mierda” comment

17 May

In 2005 another highly publicized incident took place in which Luis Aragonés, the coach of the Spanish national team was caught on tape using a racial slur when talking about Thierry Henry with one of his own Spanish players during a training session. In his efforts to quell Jose Reyes’ insecurities, he called Henry a “negro de mierda” which roughly translates into black piece of shit. The full quote is,

“Tell that negro de mierda that you are much better than him. Don’t hold back, tell him. Tell him from me. You have to believe in yourself, you’re better than that negro de mierda.”

Aragonés was criticized by the press and the public but escaped from the situation relatively unscathed. There were talks of him receiving a fine of around 22,000 Euros but it ended up in the 2,000 Euro range, which comes out to a loss of a day’s wages for Aragonés. There were certainly calls for him to step down from his position as coach but they went unheeded and Aragonés remains one of the most prominent coaches today. While he is no longer the coach of the Spanish national team, this decision was not made as a direct result of what happened with Henry. This unfortunate incident reveals the lack of teeth that anti-racism regulations have in the footballing world.

One intriguing response to the incident came from Brazilian born Marcos Senna. A little background information is necessary in order to place Senna’s comments within the proper context. By 2006, Senna had qualified for a Spanish passport and he was quickly, if controversially, integrated into Luis Aragonés’ national team. At the time he was the only black player in Spain’s squad and it was popularly believed that Senna was used as a form of self-defense by a man being criticized for labeling Thierry Henry ‘a black piece of shit’. Senna accepts that his arrival helped Aragonés, but refuses to accept that the coach is prejudiced. ‘He is not racist,’ Senna said after the incident occurred in 2005. He went on to say,

“Aragonés is a spectacular person. [Former Spain defender] Donato, who is black, is one of his best friends. Maybe something escaped, a word, and he was misinterpreted. He helped a lot bringing me to the Spain team, and the fact people thought he was racist was minimized by the fact he called me. I see the way he treats me and how he likes me.”

Senna clearly takes Aragonés’ side here which goes against Eto’o’s call for black players to stick together and make a concerted effort to address racism. He also uses the same excuses that have been used over and over to defend “would be racists”. There is the age old defense that one of his best friends is black therefore he can’t possibly harbor racist thoughts. This is far from the truth and often times racial intolerance may not manifest itself on an interpersonal level but rather between the individual and the “black man”. The “black man” is a nameless, faceless, figment of the imagination whose character and way of living are built up by various stereotypes that are propagated by those who breed racial intolerance. This is in part how fans can stand firmly behind black players on their own club and still make racial chants directed at players from other clubs. I personally find Senna’s response both frustrating and disappointing.

Here is Senna in the Spanish National team that played in the Euro 2008



One Response to “Luis Aragonés and Thierry Henry: the infamous “negro de mierda” comment”

  1. Michael June 10, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Do you find this picture a little strange?
    Why are they looking at Senna like that?

    In fact, what’s most interesting about the picture
    is that it is sort of a role-reversal (or rather a stereotype reversal)
    in that the only Black person in the picture is actually smiling
    whereas every one else is either stale-faced or neutral.

    Btw, I am really digging this blog and hopefully
    will be all caught up pretty soon.

    Keep it up man

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