Something strange happened yesterday during Real Racing Club de Santander‘s Copa del Rey match against Real Sociedad. This was the second match in the series between the clubs with Sociedad beating Santander 3-1 during the first match. For Santander to continue on in the Copa del Rey it would have to win by at least two goals. While it was certainly a challenge it was not impossible. Yet Santander opted not to play. Why? It wasn’t because it didn’t believe it could win and didn’t want to waste its time, but the players’ protest had an even deeper meaning. They were striking for their wages.
Santander’s players dressed in kits and even trained on the pitch. Everything looked as though it would be a normal match. Yet it was not. In a bizarre turn of events, as planned by Santander players, when the whistle blew to begin the match the players did not play. Instead they stood arm-in-arm around the center circle. Sociedad players passed the ball amongst each other and then kicked it out for a throw in, but none of the Santander players answered the call. The referees had no option but to suspend the match.
This is just what the Santander players wanted. They stood there with the support of the substitutes, trainers and coach. The fans rose to their feet and applauded their actions. This is so bizarre to think players may not play not because of injury but because of unpaid wages. The team has had to put up with no pay for month and wanted club president Angel Lavin and his board to step down as well.
The organization cannot pay its players but expects them to play. It may not be Real Madrid or FC Barcelona — after all it is a third-tier club — but it is still in the running of Copa del Rey; it’s still playing well for its level. How could it get so bad that the team couldn’t afford the players’ wages? They do not have the extreme salaries of Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, yet the team couldn’t pay them. I back the team 100 percent on its choice to stage this boycott.
For its little stunt, Santander is now banned from next season’s Copa del Rey tournament and faces a $4,056 fine. This is well worth it, because during Friday’s board meeting Lavin and his directors were removed from the club. The players’ main goal was successful, and hopefully now the players will get the wages they were meant to be earning.