While the Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador to clarify the incident of obscene insults directed at his star and compatriot Vinicius Junior, the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, admitted – yesterday, Monday – that Spanish football suffers from a problem of racism.
The Spanish League is under pressure to do more to combat racism, after the Brazilian president and the International Federation (FIFA) – in addition to stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton – expressed their support for the Brazilian player.
In a post on social media, Vinicius described the racist abuse as “inhuman” and called on sponsors and broadcasters to hold La Liga accountable.
⏯️ Details of what happened with Vinicius in the Valencia match
▪️ Abdul Aziz Al-Sulaiti: A full season, and Vinicius is subjected to racism.
▪️ Haitham Farouk: Vinicius is unfair today#La Liga | #Valencia_Real_Madrid #LaLigaSantander pic.twitter.com/rLzqFSQA3l
– beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 22, 2023
Vinicius said, “What is missing to criminalize these people? And punish the clubs sportingly? Why don’t the sponsors accuse the Spanish League (about what’s happening)? Don’t the TV stations get disturbed when these barbaric (behaviours) are broadcasted every weekend?”
The comments came a day after the match at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia was halted for 10 minutes, after the 22-year-old forward made a reference to fans who had allegedly made racist comments against him.
The Brazilian star added, “The problem is very serious, and press statements are no longer useful. And do not blame me in order to justify these criminal acts.”
No foi a primeira vez, nem a segunda e nem a terceira. O racismo é o normal na La Liga. A competição acha normal, a Federação também e os adversários incentivam. Lamento muito. O campeonato que já foi de Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano e Messi are hoje é dos racistas. Uma naçao…
— Vinnie Jr. (@vinijr) May 21, 2023
Vinicius, Real Madrid’s second top scorer this season (23 goals), behind Karim Benzema with two goals, previously described Spain as “the country of racists” after the Valencia match on Sunday.
This called for a reaction from the president of the Spanish League, Javier Tebas, on Twitter, where he said that the league is doing enough and Vinicius must tell himself that “before you criticize and distort the league.”
And Rubiales returned to say at a press conference in Madrid, “The first thing is to admit that we have a problem in our country. It is a serious problem that also stains an entire team, an entire fan base, an entire club and an entire country.”
Summary of the victory of “Valencia” against “Real Madrid”. ⚽⏯️ #LaLigaSantander #ValenciaRealMadrid 1-0 pic.twitter.com/lQ87QORp78
– LaLiga (@LaLigaArab) May 21, 2023
turned into a political crisis
Today, the Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador to clarify the incident. The foreign ministry said in a statement that it concluded after “another unacceptable incident” that the Spanish authorities had not taken effective measures to prevent such racist acts.
For his part, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter, “There is zero tolerance for racism in football.”
“Sport is based on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should have no place in our football and in our society,” Sanchez added.
The Spanish Sports Council had said – in a previous statement – that it would study footage of the match to summon any of the perpetrators to appear before the prosecution.
Videos posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed hundreds of Valencia fans chanting “Venicius is a monkey” as the Real Madrid bus arrived at the stadium before the match.
“I’m sorry for those Spaniards who disagree (with what I have to say) but today in Brazil, Spain is defined as the country of racists,” Vinicius wrote on Twitter after the match.
The president of the Spanish Federation criticized Tebas’ statements, describing them as “irresponsible”.
“It is more likely that Vinicius is right than we think, and we must all do more about racism,” Rubiales said.
Ya que los que deberian no te explican qué es y qué puede hacer @LaLiga en los casos de racismo, hemos intentado explicártelo nosotros, pero no te has presentado a ninguna de las dos fechas acordadas que tú mismo solicitaste. Antes de critic e injuriar a @LaLigais necessary… https://t.co/pLCIx1b6hS pic.twitter.com/eHvdd3vJcb
– Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) May 21, 2023
Real said earlier today that it had filed a hate crime complaint following the incident in Valencia. This constitutes the tenth episode of the series of racism against Vinicius, which prosecutors have been informed of this season, according to the Spanish League.
Valencia said in a statement that it had identified one fan and was working with the police to confirm the identity of the others. He added that he would apply a penalty to those involved, and it could include a life ban from entering stadiums.
Spanish police are also investigating a possible hate crime against Vinicius after hanging a model of a mannequin wearing the player’s No. 20 shirt on a bridge outside Real’s training ground last January before the summit match against Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti: The whole stadium insulted Vinicius and I asked to stop the match#La Liga | #Valencia_Real_Madrid#LaLigaSantander pic.twitter.com/YS9RTYMfw4
– beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 21, 2023
Prosecutors ruled out a complaint filed due to racist chants against this player last September, during another match against Atletico Madrid.
The prosecution dismissed the case because the “monkey” chants only occurred twice and “lasted only a few seconds”, highlighting how Spain’s penal code makes it difficult to prosecute racist incidents at football matches.
“La Liga uses these legal cases to wash its hands (of what is happening) even though it already has the power to make decisions and impose sanctions itself,” said Moha Gerho, a Spanish journalist and anti-racism activist.
He added, “The League must have the ability to close the stadiums and impose the issue of holding a number of matches without fans in such cases, because this puts pressure on the clubs and the fans themselves.”
The Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office officially investigated only 3 cases of racist incidents during the 2021-2022 season, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Under the current rules, people found guilty of racist behavior can be fined up to 4,000 euros ($4,403) and banned from stadiums for a year.
And there is growing momentum within Spain to do more to tackle the problem. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on FIFA and La Liga to “take real action”.
Hamilton (7-time Formula 1 world champion) supported Vinicius virtually via Instagram, telling him, “I stand with you, Vinicius Jr.”
While FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed his “full solidarity” and called on the Spanish League to impose a rule of succession of clubs by deducting points if the racist chants continued from their fans.
For his part, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez demanded that decisive measures be taken similar to what is happening by saying, “You have to stop the match … an insult issued by one person that will lead to everyone returning to their homes.”