Madrid: The players of Spanish La Liga side Valencia walked off the pitch away to Cadiz for 20 minutes in protest at an alleged racist insult aimed at central defender Mouctar Diakhaby by Cadiz defender Juan Cala.
The incident happened after 29 minutes with the score tied 1-1 (in a game that Cadiz ended up winning 2-1) after Cala and Diakhaby challenged for a high ball and then exchanged words, on Sunday, Xinhua news reports. A clearly angered Diakhaby had to be separated from Cala and after he had been booked by the match referee (who didn't see the incident) the Valencia players walked off the pitch in protest.
It is the first time a top-flight team has walked off the pitch due to a presumed racist insult, but after a 20-minute break, the two sides resumed the game with Hugo Guillamon replacing Diakhaby, while Cala remained on the pitch for Cadiz (although he was replaced at halftime).
Valencia published a tweet on the official club website saying: "We offer our complete backing to Diakhaby," but added, "the player who received a racial insult requested his teammates return to the pitch."
Cala was replaced by Marcos Mauro for the second half and Mauro won the game for Cadiz following a corner in the 87th minute.
Speaking after the final whistle Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya explained that "Diakhaby told us Cala had insulted him racially. We came back onto the pitch because we would have had three points deducted and our companion (Diakhaby) authorised us to go out. If he hadn't told us to go out, we wouldn't have done so. He's really upset," said Gaya, who didn't want to repeat the insult.
Valencia coach Javi Gracia also gave Diakhabi his support and said it was strange that his player didn't go back onto the pitch, while Cala reappeared for Cadiz.
"That's how I see it and I said the same thing to the fourth official," he commented.
"I want you to understand that we wanted to protect our player, who had been abused to avoid him suffering more damage, and the player who provoked this stayed on the pitch," added Gracia.
Cadiz coach Alvaro Cervera told the press that Cala had told him "he didn't insult anyone and I believe him," and insisted he had taken him off at halftime as he "had been booked."