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Despite efforts, anti-Semitism is practiced openly in Madrid

Story by Emily Pollak

MADRID – On a wild Saturday night in late May, thousands of chanting, screaming soccer fans fill the streets to support their local team, Real Madrid, as it plays for the championship in neighboring Portugal. But in the midst of the revelry, a disturbing symbol emerges. The swastika. Hundreds cheer around a man waving a flag bearing this universal symbol of anti-Semitism and hate. Nobody does a thing, or seems to care.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals, on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid's now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-semitism and violence.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid’s now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-Semitism and violence. Photo by Maria Amasanti.

It has become an increasingly familiar sight in the capital city of Spain, a country with a history of showing hostility toward Jews. And not surprisingly, as a result, the rise of white power groups has unnerved human rights advocates, business owners and members of the region’s Jewish community, a minority that represents less than 1 percent of the population.

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Match is a tale of two teams, one city, for fans in Madrid

Story by Danny Mortimer, with Bryan King and Julia Moss

MADRID – Outside City Hall late Saturday night, a man is on his knees, hands over his face, head pointed toward the sky as if in prayer. The screaming fans running past barely notice. They’ve got enough to think about. Real Madrid has won the championship in one of the most unexpected and anticipated contests ever between this city’s greatest rivals.

The party, which began hours earlier, shows no sign of stopping. “My family, my family,” the man on his knees repeats. “Congratulations, my family.”

Amid the celebration following Real Madrid's EUFA Championship celebration in the streets of Madrid, Eugiano Maloto was so overcome with emotion he dropped to his knees and prayed. Photo by Danny Mortimer.

Amid the celebration following Real Madrid’s UEFA Championship celebration in the streets of Madrid, Eugiano Maloto was so overcome with emotion he dropped to his knees and prayed. Photo by Danny Mortimer.

For more scenes from Madrid during the UEFA Final, click here.

For a commentary on covering the UEFA Final, click here.

Hours earlier, the battle lines were drawn. On every street and in every bar near the Plaza Mayor, the solid white of powerhouse Real Madrid can be seen alongside the striped uniforms of their scrappy, underdog neighbors Atlético Madrid.

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