The world should be paying attention to hate speech in Spain

Notes on the recent death threats against a Catalan Olympian

“Àlex Fàbregas, I want you dead”. “We should kill him slowly, to make him suffer”. “Gas chamber for Àlex Fàbregas”. The target of these threats, and of at least one thousand other offensive messages, is a Catalan field hockey player in Spain’s Olympic team. There were milder ones too: “It would be so good if in the next match you’d get a hard blow with a stick right across your face so you’d have to go back to your fucking Catalonia”.

The young man’s unforgivable crime was stating in an interview that he played for Spain because he had no other option. “I feel Catalan”, he said. “I do not feel the same way listening to the Spanish anthem as I do listening to [the Catalan national song] Els Segadors”.

It is a fact of life in the Olympic movement that some athletes are forced to compete under a flag for which they have no particular esteem. For historical, cultural and political reasons, this is the case for many Catalans. Most of them will just gloss over this situation, possibly because the few daring to be candid about it will immediately incur the wrath of those who find in sports a vent for their aggressive nationalism.

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