Abuse of Vinicius Jr renews calls to address racism in football
Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr was subject to racist abuse during a La Liga tie against Valencia on Sunday. Past and present teammates have since come out in support of the 22-year-old, along with the wider football world.
The beautiful game, at times, can be extremely ugly.
One of football’s most exciting starlets, Vinicius Jr, was subject to racist abuse during Real Madrid’s Spanish league tie against Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium on Sunday.
This is the latest in a slew of intolerant tirades directed at the Brazilian since joining the club five years ago.
The sporting merit of Valencia taking all three points from the defending La Liga and European champions was lost in a frenzy of emotion and disorder, with the visiting outfit lodging an official hate crime complaint at full-time.
The player has since lamented the lack of action taken by Spanish football authorities over several years, tweeting:
‘Racism is normal in LaLiga. In football they think it’s normal, the federation does too — and the opponent encourages it. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano, and Messi today belongs to racism’.
What happened during the game?
During a break of play late in the second half, Vinicius Jr approached the advertising boards and pointed out a group of Valencia fans who had racially abused him.
Understandably overcome with anger, the Brazilian verbally fired back at the crowd before explaining the situation to his fellow professionals on the pitch, and eventually, the referee.
Minutes from reaching the final whistle, with Los Blancos still trailing, Vinicius Junior received a straight red carded for raising an arm to Valencia forward Hugo Doro amid a crowd of bodies.
Controversially, however, the match officials failed to check the footage directly before the incident, which showed Vinicius being held around the throat for a prolonged period by Doro.
Vinicius’ indignation was visible for all to see and his teammates physically guided him to the touchline while he sarcastically applauded the lunacy of the decision and the deplorable behaviour before it.
Shortly after the game, the Brazilian posted an Instagram story reading: ‘The prize that racists won was my expulsion! This isn’t football, this is @LaLiga’.
‘It’s a disgrace to suffer racism, to defend yourself and then be sent off trying to defend yourself,’ said Real Madrid teammate Eder Militao. ‘How long do we have to put up with this?’
This morning, Spanish police responded by arresting four individuals, but not from the stands on Sunday. A mob of Atletico Madrid supporters allegedly hung an effigy of Vinicius from a bridge in Madrid in the build-up to a cup tie last January.
Reaction from the wider football community
Though this is hardly an isolated incident, the reaction from the football community remains as palpable as we can recall since the Mario Balotelli story of 2019, or Valencia leaving the field of play in 2021 in support of Mouctar Diakhaby.
This is in part due to the continued ignorance of La Liga president, Javier Tebas, who essentially gas-lit Vinicius by claiming he hadn’t taken the initiative to attend meetings on the subject. Foolishly, he took this peculiar stance to Twitter of all places.
‘We have tried to explain to you what La Liga is and what it can do in cases of racism, but you have not shown up to either of the two agreed dates that you yourself requested,’ tweeted Tebas. ‘Before criticising and insulting La Liga, you need to inform yourself properly Vinicius’.
‘Omitting yourself only makes you equal to racists,’ replied Vinicius. ‘I’m not your friend to talk about racism. I want actions and punishments. Hashtag doesn’t move me’.
Posts from organisations and football mainstays continue to pop up by the minute expressing praise for the young man and outrage at the position taken by La Liga.
Former England international Rio Ferdinand called for Tebas to step down from his position, labeling his response ‘disgusting, embarrassing’ and ‘out of touch’.
Brazil’s government, meanwhile, decided to send a powerful message of unity after a day of anger and condemnation.
The lights pointed at the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off in the evening ‘as a symbol of the collective fight against racism and in solidarity with the player and all those who suffer prejudice around the world,’ a statement read.
Where action needs to be taken
Showing support is one thing, but a common consensus is that recriminations are essential to stop history from repeating itself time and again — which Vinicius has shown in a series of Twitter posts dating back to 1997.
Football’s central anti-racism organisation, Kick It Out, has implored Spanish authorities to set a precedent by making arrests, and clubs to accelerate the process for delivering lifetime stadium bans.
‘Perpetrators of this shocking and continued racism need to be punished and banned by clubs. Clubs need to be held accountable and be sanctioned by La Liga. Spanish authorities need to take further action against this problem. So far, it is not working’.
Vinicius has echoed the notion that both the league and host club should be penalised directly, thereby prompting executives to actively create safeguards and respond to incidents with the necessary level of urgency.
‘What is missing to criminalise these people? And punish clubs sportingly? Why don’t sponsors charge La Liga? Don’t televisions bother to broadcast this barbarity every weekend?’ he asked.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, having witnessed numerous racist incidents throughout his storied career, declares that matches ‘have to be stopped’ or coaches will remove their players from the firing line.
‘For this to happen, there is something wrong with the league,’ he says. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the scale of the problem stretches way beyond just La Liga.