Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao stopped after Nico Williams allegedly targeted with racist abuse

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Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao stopped after Nico Williams allegedly targeted with racist abuse

Saturday’s La Liga fixture between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao was stopped midway through the first half after Nico Williams was allegedly targeted with racist abuse.

The game was paused after Athletic winger Williams, 21, drew attention to something said to him from the Metropolitano Stadium crowd. The winger’s older brother, Inaki Williams, also spoke to referee Martinez Munuera, who went over to the sideline and asked the stadium announcer to read the La Liga protocol statement against all racist, xenophobic and violent speech.

Atletico captain Koke and defender Jose Maria Gimenez appeared to tell home fans in the area usually occupied by the Frente Atletico ultras to stop, while Koke spoke to Williams and shook his hand before the game continued.

The stadium announcer called for an end to “offensive insults”, and this was greeted by whistles from a section of supporters.

Williams scored Athletic’s equaliser on the stroke of half time at the same end of the pitch that the alleged abuse took place, and celebrated by pointing to his arm.

“I went to take the corner and I heard some ‘monkey noises’,” Williams told DAZN after the game. “It’s true it was just a few (people). There are fools in all places. So it’s not a big deal, we have to keep working so that this changes bit by bit, as in the end we are having an internal and external fight against this. It is what it is.”

Asked if his goal celebration was motivated by what he had experienced, Williams replied: “Of course, it makes you a bit annoyed, that people insult you for the colour of your skin. But it’s not such a big deal, we just have to keep working on this.”

Atletico released a statement condemning “any acts of racism and hatred”, while a La Liga statement read: “La Liga firmly condemns any gesture of racism and will continue working to eradicate these intolerable behaviours from our sport.”

When Atletico midfielder Koke spoke to DAZN after the game, he used his first answer to address what had happened to Williams.

“I’d like to offer support to Nico Wiliams,” Koke said. “In our society, and in our football, people like that are not welcome. Atletico Madrid, the players and all the fans, are on Nico’s side and against these situations which should not happen in a football stadium, or anywhere else. I did not hear anything but I asked him and I wish him the best and strength as this should not happen in a football stadium in this day and age.”

Atletico won the fixture 3-1 following an Angel Correa second-half goal and an own goal from Xavi Simons 10 minutes from time.

(Oscar del Pozo/AFP via Getty Images)