Valencia rallied behind Mouctar Diakhaby on Monday with a training ground demonstration after the club said he was racially abused during Sunday’s La Liga game against Cadiz.
Valencia’s players walked off during the first half in protest but later resumed, with the club claiming they were told they would be punished if they refused to return.
Diakhaby had been involved in a heated exchange with Cadiz’s Juan Cala before the Frenchman left the field and the fixture was stopped.
Referee David Medie wrote in his match report Diakhaby told him that Cala called him a “negro de mierda”, meaning a “sh**ty black”.
Medie wrote the insult had “not been picked up by any of the refereeing team”.
Cadiz coach Alvaro Cervera said after the game that Cala insisted he had not racially insulted Diakhaby.
Valencia released a video on Monday afternoon of the club’s players and staff standing behind Diakhaby on the club’s training pitch.
Everyone pictured is making a stop signal with their hand while there is also footage of Diakhaby speaking to coach Javi Gracia and being hugged by team-mates.
“Today, tomorrow, always, stop racism,” the post read. “We’ll fight until the end to clarify what happened, defend our player and eradicate racism!”
Valencia released a statement on Sunday night saying Diakhaby had been “the latest victim of racism in football”.
It also said the club had not asked the players to play on.
“The referee informed the players of the consequences of not going back out onto the field of play,” the statement continued.
“The players, forced to play under threat of penalty after the racist insults and the yellow card to Diakhaby, decided to return to the pitch.”
La Liga released a statement on Monday morning which read: “La Liga condemns racism in all shapes and forms…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.”
Diakhaby argued with Cala in the 29th minute following a tussle between the pair in Valencia’s penalty area. Diakhaby suddenly sprinted towards Cala, who was standing close to the halfway line.
Several players rushed over to separate them, with Valencia’s Gabriel Paulista among those shouting at the referee. Diakhaby was visibly distressed and his reaction earned him a yellow card.
After being escorted away, Diakhaby spoke individually with the referee before walking off, his team-mates following behind. The Cadiz players waited a few minutes before also leaving the pitch.
Around 15 minutes later, both teams returned and a further five minutes afterwards, the game restarted, this time without Diakhaby, who was replaced by Hugo Guillamon and watched the second half sitting in the stands.
Marca’s front page on Monday carried a black background behind a photo of Diakhaby sitting in the stands, with the headline ‘You are not alone’.
Valencia might have refused to resume the game but the club maintain they had no choice but to return.
“In the changing rooms we were told if we didn’t return, we would be sanctioned,” said Gracia after the match.
“In that moment, we spoke with Diakha, about how he was, and he told us that he wouldn’t play but he understood perfectly we had to continue playing to avoid a possible sanction, so we returned.”
Valencia defender Jose Gaya also told Spanish television afterwards: “He told us he was insulted in a racist way. We went back out to play because they told us they could penalise us with three points and something more. He asked us to go back, he’s gutted, it was a very ugly insult.”
Cala told reporters outside Cadiz’s training ground on Monday morning he would hold a press conference on Tuesday “to explain everything”.
“We returned to the changing room, we talked,” Cadiz coach Cervera said. “Cala said that at no time did he insult the player. I believe in my player.”
Cala was substituted at half-time, having earlier scored the opening goal for Cadiz, who went on to win 2-1.