Strange scene in Spain as Racing Santander players protest, refuse to play

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We see this stuff every now and then, players protesting over lack of pay, but it’s usually in third-world lands or the lower tiers of more advanced lands.

To have such an unbecoming episode happen in Spain, during a well-regarded competition, no less, is something else.

Protesting their club’s board and, specifically, accusations that they haven’t been paid in months, players from Spanish club Racing Santander refused to participate Thursday against Real Sociedad as the teams’ Copa del Rey match started and was quickly abandoned.

According to several reports, Racing’s players warmed up and then stood in the middle of the field, arm in arm, as Real Sociedad players passed the ball around and then out of bounds. The referee then signaled that the match would be abandoned.

It was a second-leg contest; Sociedad had prevailed in the first leg, 3-1, and will move on to face mighty Barcelona in the tournament’s semifinals. The Copa del Rey is Spain’s second most important competition after the La Liga crown.

Racing players had threatened to do this very thing if club president Ángel Lavín and the entire board of directors refused to resign. Spanish soccer officials had attempted to intercede, but were clearly unsuccessful in their efforts to get Racing to play the match and avoid the embarrassment and added attention – like American blogs picking up on the story.

Racing is Spain’s second division.