One of the lowlights from this past weekend in the Mexican Primera were the events surrounding the expulsion of Santos Laguna striker Carlos Darwin Quintero from Saturday’s match against Cruz Azul. In the second half, his team holding a 2-0 lead, Quintero was fouled in the box and drew a penalty. From there things turned ugly. Already enduring racist insults from Cruz Azul defender Rogelio Chavez (allegedly "simio de mierda"), Quintero was pushed by Christian Gimenez as he walked away from the play. At this point Quintero fought back, making contact to the face of Gimenez and earning an immediate red card.
On Monday it was announced that the Disciplinary Commission had suspended Quintero for six games. That means, barring a successful appeal, he will likely not take the field for Santos again this season.
The suspension couldn’t come at a worse time for Santos. After struggling through much of the season, which featured a difficult coaching change in late February, Santos finally looked to be turning a corner in recent weeks. A solid effort, albeit in a loss, against Morelia was followed up by a dominant performance on Saturday against Cruz Azul, one of the best teams in the league. And it was Quintero who led the way. Unfortunately, he now must watch from the sideline for the remainder of the season.
Prior to this incident, it had already been a difficult year for Quintero. Struggles on the field for Santos were compounded by difficulties at home. His newborn son Carlos Darwin Jr., now just over a month old, has had serious health problems. Just last week Quintero’s father Guilbert traveled to Mexico from Colombia to be with his son and grandson.
The Commission’s penalty of six games for Quintero seems incredibly harsh considering what actually transpired on the field, even without taking into account the racist language he received. Quintero did not instigate the fight, and was also quick to apologize for his actions in the press conference following the match. At the same time he also made it clear that he does not accept racist language on the field.
The Mexican Football Federation should not accept racism either. While language like this should be roundly denounced, many in Mexico simply respond with a collective shrug. Well-respected veteran Tigres manager Tuca Ferretti responded to the incident by saying that what happens on the field should stay on the field, and that no matter what is said between players, we should let it go. Easy to say when you’ve never been the victim of racist abuse.
It is also not the first time a Santos player has been at the center of a high-profile racist incident. Just under a year ago, Pumas UNAM player Marco Antonio Palacios was charged with abusing Panamanian defender Felipe Baloy with racist language. Palacios later appeared in a public service announcement against discrimination. Clearly, though, this has had little effect.
It is past time for the Mexican Football federation to act. Santos player Oribe Peralta verbalized the frustrations of many of his teammates, stating that one "feels powerless as a player. The referees hear this stuff and do nothing." If the Federation also chooses to do nothing, they are officially saying that it is okay to use racial taunts to bait an opposing player.
This is unacceptable. There is no place for racism anywhere, and the Mexican Federation has the ability to set a powerful example. Football matches occur on a big stage in Mexico, and actions on the field directly influence millions of young people throughout the country. Federation executives can make a positive difference, or they can sit idly by and be complicit in the perpetuation of destructive racist language.
Santos club officials have already formally submitted a grievance against the Disciplinary Commission’s decision. The club has asked for Quintero’s suspension to be reduced, and for sanctions to be applied to the Cruz Azul players involved, most notably Rogelio Chavez for his racist actions.
The reputation of the league rides on this decision. It is time for the federation to make a stand against racism, and show that this type of deplorable behavior has no place in Mexican football.