Barcelona basketball team condemn racist abuse of Nigerian player

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Barcelona's Nigerian pivot James Nnaji looks on during warm-up before the start of the Euroleague Basketball match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the WiZink centre in Madrid, on January 26, 2023 [File: Javier Soriano/AFP]

Barcelona has condemned racist insults hurled at their first-team player James Nnaji before final against Real Madrid.

The Barcelona basketball team has condemned the racist abuse suffered by Nigerian player James Nnaji during their Spanish championship final victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid.

The incident on Tuesday comes as Spanish sport wrestles with the global outcry sparked by racism aimed at Real Madrid’s Brazilian football star Vinicius Jr. The 22-year-old Brazilian forward called out racist abuse in the Spanish football league in May, which he had been subjected to since moving to Spain five years ago.

On Wednesday, it was the turn of Spanish basketball.

“Barcelona strongly condemns the racist insults suffered by first-team basketball player James Nnaji before game three of the final,” the team said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The club expects a firm response from the ACB [Spanish basketball league] against any racial or verbal insults.”

Images of the arrival of the Barcelona team bus at the WiZink centre in Madrid, where Tuesday’s match took place, showed several Madrid fans hurling insults at the Barcelona players.

According to local media, Nnaji was the target of racist insults.

“I want to talk about what happened here with James Nnaji. I think it’s regrettable. I hear a lot about Vinicius, and now it’s us who have to talk about what’s going on,” Barcelona basketball coach Sarunas Jasikevicius said later.

“It has to stop now. It doesn’t fit, I guess, with the values of Real Madrid and its supporters, and we have to be very angry about that,” he said.

Nigeria’s online media outlet Pulse Sports said the 18-year-old Nnaji played for just eight minutes and 35 seconds in the final but had a “pivotal role” in his team’s win.

Barcelona beat Real Madrid in 93-82 on Tuesday after winning the first two games of the final for the club’s 20th Spanish league title.

Barcelona's James Nnaji (C) and AS Monaco' Elie Okobo (R) vie for the ball during the Euroleague basketball final four match for third place between Monaco and Barcelona in Kaunas, on May 21, 2023. (Photo by PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP)
Barcelona’s James Nnaji, centre, and AS Monaco’ Elie Okobo, right, vie for the ball during the Euroleague basketball final four match for third place between Monaco and Barcelona in Kaunas, on May 21, 2023 [File: Petras Malukas/AFP]

SOURCE: AFP, AL JAZEERA

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