June 3, 2023

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Spanish football recognizes the problem of racism after the Vinicius incident

  • Real Madrid files a hate complaint due to racist abuse
  • The Brazilian government summons the Spanish ambassador to explain the incident
  • FIFA calls for lifetime stadium bans for racist fans

MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales said on Monday that Spanish football has a racism problem, echoing criticism from Brazil after Real Madrid lodged a complaint over a racist offense after insulting their Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior.

LaLiga is under pressure to do more to combat racism after Brazil’s president, FIFA and other sports stars such as France striker Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton expressed their support for Vinicius.

In a post on social media, Vinicius Jr called the racist abuse “inhumane” and demanded sponsors and broadcasters hold LaLiga accountable.

“What is missing from criminalizing these people? And punishing the clubs sportingly? Why don’t the sponsors be accused of LaLiga? Don’t the televisions care about broadcasting this barbarity every weekend?” Vinicius said.

The statement came a day after the match against Valencia at Mestalla was stopped for 10 minutes after the 22-year-old Brazilian striker made racist comments about fans who he said were attacking him.

He added, “The problem is very serious, and press releases are useless. Do not blame me for justifying criminal actions.”

The statue of the Brazilian Christ the Redeemer, a famous landmark in Rio de Janeiro, was extinguished on Monday evening as an expression of solidarity with the Real Madrid striker.

Vinicius, Real Madrid’s second top scorer this season in all competitions (23) behind Karim Benzema (29), had previously described Spain as “the country of racists” after the Valencia match on Sunday.

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That prompted a reaction from LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who said on Twitter that enough had been done and that Vinicius should inform himself “before you criticize and defame LaLiga”.

“The first thing is to admit that we have a problem in our country,” Rubiales said at a news conference in Madrid on Monday. It is “a serious problem that also stains an entire team, an entire fan base, an entire club, and an entire country”.

On Monday, the Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador to explain the incident, and its foreign ministry said in a statement that it had concluded after “another unacceptable incident” that the Spanish authorities had not taken effective measures to prevent such racist acts. .

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter that “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 earlier said in a statement that it would study footage from the match to rule out any perpetrators for prosecution.

Videos posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed hundreds of Valencia fans singing “Vinicius Monkey” as Real Madrid’s bus arrived at the stadium before the match.

“I’m sorry for those Spaniards who disagree, but today in Brazil Spain is known as the country of racists,” Vinicius Junior wrote on Twitter.

Rubiales called Tebas’ comments “irresponsible”.

“It is possible that Vinicius is more right than we think, and we all need to do more about racism,” Rubiales said.

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Multiple accidents

Real Madrid said Monday it had filed a hate crime complaint in the wake of the incident – the tenth episode of alleged racism involving the young soccer star reported to prosecutors this season, according to LaLiga.

Valencia CF said in a statement that it had identified one fan and was working with the police to confirm the identities of others who could face penalties including life bans from stadiums.

Spanish police continue to investigate a possible hate crime against Vinicius Junior after hanging a mannequin wearing his number 20 shirt from a bridge outside Real Madrid’s training ground in January ahead of the club’s derby match with Atletico Madrid.

Prosecutors dropped a complaint filed over racist chants against the player in September during another match against Atletico Madrid.

The prosecution archived the case because the “monkey” chants were said only twice and “lasted only a few seconds”, highlighting how Spain’s penal code makes it difficult to prosecute racist incidents at football matches.

“LaLiga is using these legal cases to wash its hands, 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, “La Liga must be able to close the stadiums and force a number of matches to be played behind closed doors in these cases, because that puts pressure on the clubs and the fans themselves.”

Spanish prosecutors have officially investigated three cases of racist acts during the 2021-22 season, according to the Interior Ministry. Under the current rules, those found guilty of racist behavior can be fined up to 4,000 euros ($4,403) and banned from stadiums for a year.

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There is growing momentum for Spain to do more to tackle the problem. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has called on FIFA and LaLiga to “take real action”.

Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton sent Vinicius a virtual fist bump on Instagram, adding: “Standing with you @vinjr”.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called on La Liga to impose a rule that clubs will deduct points if racist chants continue. He added that racists should be banned for life from stadiums around the world. Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez called for similar drastic measures: “You have to stop the match … one insult and everyone goes home.”

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

Additional reporting by Fernando Callas, Emma Pinedo and David Latona; Written by Charlie Devereux, Editing by Christian Radnedge

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.