Player accused of racism wants to be presumed innocent

MADRID — The Cádiz defender accused of racially insulting an opponent in a Spanish league match this weekend said he deserves to be presumed innocent.

Juan Cala made his first public comments on Monday, a day after he was accused of insulting Valencia player Mouctar Diakhaby in Cadiz’s 2-1 home win on Sunday.

“Apparently the presumption of innocence doesn’t exist in this country,” Cala told the television channel Deportes Cuatro.

Speaking briefly as he arrived at the team’s facilities in southern Spain, Cala said he will soon share his version of what happened.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to hide,” he said after he and Diakhaby made front-page headlines across Spain.

The team announced that the player will speak at a news conference after the team’s training session on Tuesday.

Some of his teammates and Cádiz coach Álvaro Cervera defended Cala on Sunday. The coach said Cala told him he never insulted anyone during the game.

The club had said it condemned racism but it could not “comment on incidents that arise between players during the course of play.”

Valencia players walked off the field after Diakhaby said he was insulted, returning after the club said the squad was threatened by the referee with a possible loss of points if they didn’t resume playing.

Referee David Medie Jiménez said in his match report that after the confrontation between the players, Diakhaby told him that he had been insulted. Jiménez included the racist words reported by Diakhaby in his summary but said they were not heard by anyone among the officiating crew.

Jiménez said that a few minutes after the match was suspended, officials from Valencia and Cádiz told him that they decided to continue playing the game. He did not mention telling Valencia players that they were risking the possible loss of points.

The Spanish league on Monday condemned “all shapes and forms” of racism.

“We take any allegation of racism seriously and will work with the clubs and refereeing establishment to do whatever is necessary to protect the values of equality and respect that prevail in our Spanish professional football competition,” the league said in a statement.

Valencia called for a complete investigation of what happened in the game and reiterated its “full backing” for Diakhaby.

“We’ll fight until the end to clarify what happened, defend our player and eradicate racism!” the club said on Twitter.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Monday called for “zero tolerance” against racism.

“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened in that game, but it’s clear that we need to deal with racism with zero tolerance,” he said. “We need to respect each other, that’s the most important thing.”

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