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Vinícius Júnior gains support as Spanish football is once again embroiled in racism


MADRID (AP) — Spanish football is once again embroiled in racism, with support for Vinícius Júnior rapidly growing after yet another case of abuse against the Brazilian striker this weekend.

Officials, players and former players showed solidarity with Vinicius, who considered leaving the field on Sunday after being insulted by fans during Real Madrid’s 1-0 defeat in Valencia in the Spanish league.

Vinícius said after the match that the Spanish league “now belongs to racists” and that Spain “is seen as a racist country”.

“Full solidarity with Vinicius,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “There is no place for racism in football or in society and FIFA stands with all players who find themselves in such a situation. Events during the match between Valencia and Real Madrid show that this must be the case.”

Support for Vinícius, who is black and has been a victim of racial abuse since he came to play in Spain five years ago, has come from former players and current stars.

“You are not alone,” said French striker Kylian Mbappé on Instagram. “We are with you and we support you.”

At least one fan was banned for life by Valencia over Sunday’s incident.

“From the moment the unfortunate events happened, the club has analyzed all available footage and worked with the authorities as quickly as possible to get clarification on what happened in order to take swift and firm action,” Valencia said in a statement. adding that it is working with the police to identify more perpetrators.

Vinicius is not the only player in Spain, or in European football, to face racial abuse. But the Brazilian has been the focus of much hate in recent years, especially this season. An effigy of the player in January was hanged from a highway bridge in Madrid.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and several of his cabinet ministers supported Vinicius and were critical of Spanish football.

“It’s not fair that a poor boy who wins in his life and becomes one of the best in the world, especially the best at Real Madrid, is insulted in every stadium he goes to,” Lula said..

Many called for solutions after the repeated racist attacks against Vinícius.

“Another case of racism against Vinicius in the Spanish league,” said former Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who played five seasons for Real Madrid in the 2000s. “Until when? As long as there is impunity, there will be racism.”

Real Madrid said it “strongly” condemned the abuse against Vinicius and said it was formally taking the case to Spanish prosecutors.

“These events represent a direct attack on our state’s social and democratic model of coexistence based on the rule of law,” the club said.

The Spanish league has filed nine similar formal complaints of racial abuse against Vinícius in the past two seasons, but most cases have been suspended by prosecutors. Another complaint was expected to be filed after an investigation into what happened in Valencia was completed.

Fans have been fined and banned from stadiums for their abuse, but so far only a Mallorca fan can stand trial for allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a match.

“It wasn’t the first time, or the second, or the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga. The competition thinks it’s normal, the union too, and the opponents encourage it,” Vinícius said on Instagram and Twitter on Sunday. “The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Lionel) Messi now belongs to racists… But I am strong and I will fight the racists to the end. Even if it is far from here.”

Spanish league president Javier Tebas criticized Vinicius for attacking the league, saying the player failed to show up for talks about racism that he himself had requested.

The association claims that it only has the power to prosecute cases and that it is up to local authorities to take action against the perpetrators and the football association to punish clubs and referees. But the Spanish league does have control over the sporting sanctions in its own leagues. FIFA, the sport’s governing body, updated its own disciplinary code in 2013 – with options for points deductions and mandatory relegation for teams in the most serious cases – and asked match organizers around the world to follow suit.

Vinicius was not pleased with Tebas’ attitude.

“Instead of criticizing racists, the president of the league appears on social media to attack me,” said Vinícius. “While you may say otherwise or pretend not to notice, the image of your championship is shaken. Leaving yourself out only makes you equal to the racists. I’m not your friend to talk about racism with you. I want actions and punishment.”

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was “curious to see what happens next” but didn’t expect much.

“Nothing is going to happen, because this has happened several times in other stadiums and nothing has been done about it. Nothing,” said Ancelotti. “We have to evaluate this situation because it is very serious.”


AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.


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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.