Prosecutors in Spain have opened an investigation into the racist abuse hurled at Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior as Brazil made a formal protest on Monday.
The 22-year-old Brazilian international has often been targeted by opposition fans in Spain’s La Liga and was once more in a 1-0 loss at Valencia on Sunday.
The game was held up for several minutes and the referee wrote in his post-match report that shouts of ‘monkey’ had been directed at Vinicius.
Valencia FC released an official statement reiterating ‘its strongest condemnation against racism and violence in all forms’ and stating that it would be ‘acting forcefully against all identified persons with the most severe measure by banning them for life’ from the stadium. The club confirmed that the police had identified a total of three fans to date who had racially insulted Vinícius Jr during the match. The prosecutor’s office in Valencia was also investigating a possible hate crime.
Real Madrid said earlier it had filed a complaint ‘in order that the facts be investigated and those responsible be held accountable. The club said the chants, in its view, ‘constitute a hate crime’.
Brazil formally protested to the Spanish ambassador and will lodge an official complaint with authorities in Madrid.
There is growing anger in Brazil, where the lights of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off for one hour in solidarity with the player.
‘Black and imposing,’ Vinícius tweeted of the darkened statue, saying he was moved and thanked followers for their support. ‘But I want, above all, to inspire and bring more light to our fight,’ he added.
Vinicius has been racially abused at several stadiums this season in Spain. On one occasion, an effigy of him was hung from a bridge by Atlético Madrid fans. Spanish police said on Tuesday that they had arrested four people as part of a probe into the hanging of the dummy.
During the Valencia match, Vinícius stood in front of home fans behind one goal and pointed to an apparent culprit. Play was delayed for several minutes in the second half.
Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea spoke to Mestalla stadium officials, who made an announcement calling for racist insults to stop before play resumed 10 minutes later.
Spain’s government sports council is analysing crowd images to root out the fan or fans responsible. The body has in similar incidents in the past proposed a one-year stadium ban and fine of €4,000 for those found guilty.
On a day of recriminations and soul-searching, the head of Spain’s football federation said the country had a ‘problem’ with racism. ‘As long as there is just one fan, a single undesirable, or group of undesirables who hurl insults over someone’s sexual orientation, or skin colour, we have a serious problem,’ Luis Rubiales said.
But Real Madrid heavily criticised Rubiales, saying his refusal to ensure FIFA protocols – which suggest matches should be halted when racist abuse is heard – are upheld in Spain is exacerbating the problem.
‘His inaction has resulted in the helplessness and defencelessness of our player Vinícius,’ said the club, which hit out at the federation for failing to ‘prevent the situation’.
La Liga argues it has been ‘proactive’ in previous cases of racism against Vinicius.
Vinícius was sent off in added time at the end of the game for hitting Valencia player Hugo Duro during a brawl. Real said the match officials ‘made unfair decisions based on incomplete images’ when Vinicius was shown a red card.
After the match, Vinícius issued a strongly worded statement saying that ‘today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists … The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Messi now belongs to racists.’
⚠️ÚLTIMA HORA⚠️— Policía Nacional (@policia) May 23, 2023
La @policia ha detenido hoy en #Valencia a 3 jóvenes por las conductas racistas ocurridas el pasado domingo en el encuentro entre el #ValenciaCF y el #RealMadrid
STOP #delitosdeodio pic.twitter.com/gKrJuuG7ZX
Preto e imponente. O Cristo Redentor ficou assim há pouco. Uma ação de solidariedade que me emociona. Mas quero, sobretudo, inspirar e trazer mais luz à nossa luta.— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) May 22, 2023
Agradeço demais toda a corrente de carinho e apoio que recebi nos últimos meses. Tanto no Brasil quanto mundo… pic.twitter.com/zVBcD4eF8k
Mais uma vez, em vez de criticar racistas, o presidente da LaLiga aparece nas redes sociais para me atacar.— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) May 21, 2023
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