Barcelona – Football and beyond rallied around Vinicius Junior on Monday, demanding action against racism, after the Real Madrid star was abused once again in Spain’s La Liga.
The 22-year-old Brazilian international forward was targeted by a home supporter during a 1-0 defeat at Valencia on Sunday and was later sent off.
Vinicius issued a statement afterwards saying that La Liga “belongs to racists” and several Brazilian players past and present offered their support.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned the abuse, telling a news conference at the close of the G7 summit in Hiroshima: “He was attacked. He was called a ‘monkey’.”
Queria fazer um gesto de solidariedade ao @vinijr, um jovem que certamente é o melhor jogador do Real Madrid, e que sofre repetidas ofensas. Espero que a Fifa e outras entidades tomem providências, para não deixar que o racismo tome conta do futebol.
— Lula (@LulaOficial) May 21, 2023
TWEET TRANSLATION: I wanted to make a gesture of solidarity with @vinijr, a young man who is certainly Real Madrid’s best player, and who suffers repeated offenses. I hope that FIFA and other entities take steps to prevent racism from taking over football.
Vinicius has frequently been singled out for racial abuse in La Liga and the latest incident came at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium.
Vinicius stood in front of fans behind the goal and pointed to the apparent culprit. Play was delayed for several minutes in the second half.
Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea spoke to stadium officials, who made an announcement calling for racist insults to stop before play resumed 10 minutes later.
The referee wrote in his post-match report that a fan shouted “monkey, monkey” at the player.
Vinicius was sent off in added time at the end of the game for hitting Hugo Duro during a brawl, and Valencia won the game 1-0 through Diego Lopez’s first-half goal.
Vinicius left the pitch making a gesture with his hands indicating Valencia, who are five points clear of the relegation places, were heading down to Spain’s second division.
Stop the game, says Ancelotti
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said Spanish football needed to be prepared to halt matches.
“The Spanish league has a problem, and Vinicius is not the problem. Vinicius is the victim. There’s a very serious problem,” Ancelotti said.
“The fact I thought about taking him off because of the racist atmosphere does not seem good to me,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“What has happened today has happened before, but not like that, it’s unacceptable.”
FIFA reiterated on Monday that stopping matches is permitted as well as players walking off the pitch in their three-step approach when racist abuse takes place.
“Full solidarity to Vinicius,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
FIFA President Infantino’s statement on #ViniciusJr.
Recommends a three-step process at all levels of football.
But La Liga president says Vini should come so they explain to him. pic.twitter.com/xLdUXilTIw
— Juliet Bawuah (@julietbawuah) May 22, 2023
“There is no place for racism in football or in society and FIFA stands by all players who have found themselves in such a situation.
“Events during the match between Valencia and Real Madrid show that this needs to be the case.”
Vinicius has been racially abused at several stadiums this season in Spain and an effigy of him was hung from a bridge by Atletico Madrid fans.
La Liga have filed legal complaints to Spanish authorities on multiple occasions this season, with the league pledging on Sunday to do so again after investigating.
However, Ancelotti said it was not helping.
“What has happened? Reports, and nothing at all has come from it. The solution is to stop the game,” said the veteran Italian coach.
Writing on Instagram, Vinicius said Spain was viewed as “a country of racists” in his homeland.
He said Spain was “a great country, which welcomed me and that I love, but which has accepted to export to the world the image of a racist country. I am sorry for the Spanish people who do not agree, but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.”
“The prize for the racists today is that they have sent me off. It’s not football, it’s La Liga,” he said.
View this post on Instagram
“The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Messi now belongs to racists,” Vinicius added.
La Liga said they have been “proactive” in previous cases of racism against Vinicius, filing nine complaints with relevant authorities and prosecutors.
La Liga’s combative president Javier Tebas hit back on Twitter, claiming Vinicius on two occasions did not turn up for a meeting with the governing body to discuss what it “can do in cases of racism”.
“Before you criticise and slander La Liga you need to inform yourself properly,” he tweeted.
Vinicius has, though, received widespread support.
Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said he heard “monkey noises” during the game and said he would have walked off with Vinicius if the Brazilian chose to stop playing.
“We cannot tolerate these things,” Courtois told Movistar.
There was anger among many in Brazil.
President Lula called for FIFA and the Spanish league to take “serious measures”.
“It’s unjust that a poor kid who’s done so well in life, who may be on his way to becoming the best in the world — he’s certainly the best at Real Madrid — gets insulted at every stadium where he plays,” he said in Japan.
On Twitter, Brazilian Football Confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said: “Vini Jr., you have our love and support, and that of all Brazilians.”
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