by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar July 6th 2008
Despite the good intentions and initiatives of Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetzky there is still work to be done. While Villarreal does not tolerate racist conduct, other clubs have developed a reputation for racist supporters. Surely such a high-profile black player like Marcos Senna da Silva has been subjected to racist conduct in stadiums like Saragossa’s La Romareda or Atlético de Madrid’s Vicente Calderón or Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Pérez?
“In my years playing in Spain I have never experienced strong racism,” says Senna. “There were some – ten or fifteen at most – who insulted me. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was a tiny minority. It wasn’t enough to affect me.”
It was so insignificant to him that he doesn’t even remember where it happened. He is no apologist for racism in football and believes that it must be confronted, but Senna is equally convinced that his adopted homeland is not a racist nation. “Racism must be stamped out,” says Senna, “but as I have said previously Spain is not a racist country.”
So what would Marcos Senna like to see done to confront racism in his sport and in life? “The truth is I have no idea,” he says. “We all have to struggle to make sure that racism has no place in society.” So what about Senna himself? What does the future hold for him?
Senna went to the World Cup finals with his future unresolved. Arsenal had expressed an interest in him as had Real Madrid. Meanwhile Villarreal wanted him to extend his contract, but when Manchester United came in for him, a fee was agreed. It seemed as if Senna was bound for the Premiership, but after agreement between all parties had been reached Sir Alex Fergusson pulled out in order to aggressively pursue Bayern München’s Owen Hargreaves – England’s only success in a sub-standard World Cup campaign.
The German club refused to allow Hargreaves to leave, so Manchester United tried to land Senna with an improved offer. But by then both Senna and Villarreal were no longer interested. In September 2006 Senna signed a contract extension that ties him to the Madrigal until June 2010 and in the summer of 2007 Manchester United finally signed Hargreaves. Senna is happy at Villarreal – a club he has ambitions for.
There is a goal Senna has yet to achieve in club football. “My greatest ambition in football is to win a Primera División title with Villarreal,” he says. “It is a great club that is growing and is continuing to grow. It would be wonderful to win a title with this club.” Villarreal could not have had a better start to Senna’s quest for the league title in the season that has just ended.
An opening day visit to Valencia’s Mestalla wouldn’t seem like an ideal way to start the season for many clubs, but Villarreal was not overawed and left with all three points following a 3-0 win against a Valencia side reduced to nine men after both David Villa Sánchez and Joaquín Sánchez Rodríguez were sent off.
During the course of the season they emerged as the only credible challengers to Real Madrid, although Bernd Schuster’s team won the title comfortably in the end, but Villarreal was the team that pushed them closest. They will have Champions League football next season and a growing confidence that they can make Senna’s dream come true.
He has similar dreams at international level too. He has achieved them in Vienna last month. Spain has the taste for more. Senna’s confidence could not be higher. Spain has achieved success and Villarreal came close. His stock is very high, but does he want to end his career in Spain?
“I am happy here at Villarreal,” he says. “I want to carry on growing with this club. However, in theory if I were to move to another league I would want to play for a big club. In England it would be Manchester United: Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea. If it was in Italy or France I would want to play for one of the big teams.”
However, Senna is content and settled in Spain. He has no intention of leaving Villarreal. “Like I said, I am very happy here in Villarreal,” he says. “I want to win a title with this club. I am delighted here. I couldn’t be happier.”
Senna is an inspiration, especially to black Spanish youngsters, but who inspired him as a young boy growing up in São Paulo? He obviously admires Eto’o, but somewhat surprisingly for a Brasilian boy one of his idols in his youth is the Argentine great Diego Maradona. “Rómario was my childhood hero,” he says, “and before him it was Maradona. But Rómario was my idol.”
And what about now? Does he still have heroes in football now that he is a successful footballer – the highest profile black Spanish player? “No it is not the same as it was in my childhood,” says Senna. “It is my work now. I play against some of the best teams in the world with great players, so it is not the same. I had heroes and idols in my childhood, but not any more. Now I see that footballers are not from another world.”