Athletic’s Nico Williams racially abused during Atletico match

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Another incident of racism in Spanish football marred Atletico Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Athletic Club on Saturday.

Spanish striker Nico Williams said he was targeted by shouts of “monkey” as he took a corner in the first half at the Metropolitano stadium.

“I went to turn the corner and I heard monkey noises,” Williams said. “There weren’t many of them. There are stupid people everywhere… I hope that will change little by little.”

When Williams later scored Athletic’s goal, he responded to the insults by running in front of the stands and tapping his forearm in reference to his skin color.

“It was with a little anger. It’s not normal to be insulted for the color of your skin.”

His older brother, Iñaki Willliams, who also suffered racist insults during his career, expanded his criticism beyond those who insulted his brother to include fans who jeered and booed Nico after his response to the incident.

“They made fun of him every time he touched the ball,” Iñaki Williams said. “I don’t understand this. They should be making fun of the attackers, not the victim.”

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke has condemned the incident, offering Nico Williams “support and strength”.

“In our society there is no place for people who insult like this,” he said. “Atletico Madrid and all our supporters are for Nico and against these situations which should not happen in a football stadium or in society.

“This cannot happen in the year we live in or in the society we live in.”

La Liga has failed to stop repeated verbal racist attacks on players, with Real Madrid striker Vinícius Júnior systematically targeted.

The first trial against a fan accused of racist abuse in Spanish professional football is awaiting determination. Espanyol supporter allegedly racially insulted Iñaki Williams during a match in 2020.

Fourth-placed Atletico opened a six-point gap to fifth-placed Athletic with five matches remaining. The top four in La Liga will participate in the Champions League next season.

Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul gave Atletico the lead in the 15th minute when his long-range shot deflected off a defender and dived at Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simón.

Nico Williams equalized just before half-time when Atletico star Antoine Griezmann made a poor pass which was collected by Iñaki Williams. The striker cleared Gorka Guruzeta to square the ball and Nico scored.

Ángel Correa restored Atletico’s lead in the 52nd minute after collecting the ball in midfield, then sliding forward, where he controlled a long ball from Koke before beating Simón.

The match was beyond doubt in the 80th minute when a shot from Samuel Lino hit the post and rebounded off Simón.

Athletic beat Atletico twice in the Copa del Rey semi-finals en route to victory.

Reporting from Sam Marsden of ESPN and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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