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England don't want to play in Madrid

Latest update : 2008-10-13

Fearing a repeat of the racist abuse that marred the latest encounter between Spain and England in 2004, the English Football Association has asked to move next year's friendly fixture away from Madrid's Santiago-Bernabeu stadium.

A friendly fixture between England and Spain is set to be moved from its scheduled venue of Madrid next year over fears that racism could again become the overriding feature of the match.

The last time England played Spain in Madrid, in 2004, sections of the crowd at the Bernabeu stadium rained racist chants down on some of England's players.

Shaun Wright-Phillips was abused - along with Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Jermaine Jenas. The Spanish Federation were eventually fined 56,000 euros.

And with England striker Emile Heskey a recent victim of racist monkey chants on the part of some Croatia fans during their recent World Cup qualifier, England's FA are keen to avoid having to play in the Spanish capital.

Although an official agreement is yet to be reached between the FA and their Spanish counterparts, the fixture is expected to be played on Wednesday, February 11, the only remaining FIFA international date still to be filled.

"This fixture is one of the friendly games that Fabio Capello requested to play. But as yet, a venue is still to be confirmed and the contract still to be signed," said FA director of communications Adrian Bevington.

"However, from the outset, the FA, with Fabio, were clear we would not play the fixture in Madrid due to the incidents of racial abuse we faced last time.

"Fabio is totally supportive of this fixture."

With Madrid ruled out, Seville and Valencia would appear the most likely alternatives.

A Spanish Federation spokesman told AFP in Madrid that "for the moment there is nothing concrete" on whether or where a match would take place.

"If the match takes place it will be at the request of the English Federation," the spokesman said from Brussels, where Spain are in action on Wednesday, adding that if a date were fixed it would be up to the Spanish to elect a venue.

Rather than see the problem simply move from one city to another, the FA have vowed to work closely with the Spanish Federation on a number of anti-racism measures before the proposed fixture, which both bodies are expected to support.

Capello, the former coach of Real Madrid, regards Spain as the best international side in Europe at the moment, and worthy winners of Euro 2008.

With Liverpool's Fernando Torres spearheading their attack and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas also in the Spain squad, there is significant Premier League interest.

Spain are currently captained by Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and beat Estonia 3-0 on Saturday in their latest World Cup qualifier.

Date created : 2008-10-13

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