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Vinícius Júnior, the racist scandal of Real Madrid and football, explained

The world of football is once again grappling with racism in sport after Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior was the target of abuse during a recent match.

“It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in La Liga,” wrote the black Brazilian player, who has faced racism from officials as well as rival fans since arriving in Spain in 2018 – including earlier this year when an effigy of him was been hung from a bridge in Madrid.

The latest scandal has sparked backlash and backlash against the soccer star, along with several arrests. Here’s what you need to know.

During a Sunday match between Vinícius’ side Real Madrid and Valencia, Vinícius – also known as Vini Jr. – walked to the stands behind Valencia’s goal and pointed out the spot where he said fans were shouting racial slurs at him. The match was briefly halted, with referees activating an anti-racism protocol and warning fans that the match would be suspended if they continued.

After the match, the 22-year-old Brazilian winger wrote on Instagram that racism had become normalized in La Liga, Spain’s top football league.

“The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi now belongs to the racists,” he wrote in Portuguese.

“I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree, but today in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.”

Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior says ‘racism is normal’ in Spanish La Liga

Real Madrid have filed a hate crime complaint with Spain’s state attorney general’s office, as have the Spain-based Movement Against Intolerance and the Spanish Footballers’ Association.

Spain’s national police have since arrested seven people in connection with two incidents of racist abuse targeting Vinícius, three of which were linked to chanting and other abuse at the Valencia game. Police said the investigation to identify other possible perpetrators remains open.

How did people react?

Support for Vinícius poured in from around the world, including his home country Brazil, as did backlash.

‘Zero tolerance for racism in football’, says Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter. “Hate and xenophobia should have no place in our football or our society.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted that he “wanted to make a gesture of solidarity” with Vinícius, whom he described as “a young man who is certainly Real Madrid’s best player, and who suffers from repeated offenses”.

The lights of the Christ the Redeemer statue, which overlooks Rio de Janeiro, were turned off for an hour “in solidarity with the player and with all those who suffer prejudice in the world”.

Vinícius said he was “moved” by the gesture and thanked his supporters, write on twitter: “If I have to suffer more and more so that future generations do not have to experience similar situations, I am ready and prepared.”

During a game on Wednesday, which Vinícius skipped due to what the club said was knee pain, his Real Madrid teammates entered the pitch wearing his number 20 shirt as a sign of solidarity.

Sports giant Nike also posted an image of Vinícius on Instagram with the words: “Stop looking away.”

Following his comments, several high-profile Spanish figures sought to deny or minimize the existence of racism in the country. Some even seemed to blame Vinícius for the insults he received.

Spanish sports journalist Pipi Estrada has repeatedly said ‘there is no racism in Spain’, telling a radio show that black people can ‘walk freely’ and that ‘I have black friends’ . according to Spanish media.

And while La Liga said he would continue to support Vinícius and all other players victimized by racist attacks, its president, Javier Tebas Medrano, said on Twitter that it was “unfair” to call the country or the league racist.

“Instead of criticizing the racists, the La Liga president appears on social media to attack me,” Vinícius replied.

What does this show about racism in football?

Racism in sport, especially football, “is a reflection” of society, said Raúl Martínez-Corcuera, a professor who studies hate speech in the media at the Spanish University of Vic.

“In the Spanish case, we have long criticized that football has normalized hate speech,” including racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ sentiments, he wrote in email comments on Thursday. .

Academic studies have long recognized football “as a space for heteronormative white males, and anything that doesn’t meet those characteristics is attacked”, he said, adding that hate speech and other forms of prejudice is “all too common in all stadiums, by fans of all football teams. And these are acts rarely censored or sanctioned by sports institutions or the media.

Esteban Ibarra, president of the Movement Against Intolerance, wrote that while Spanish law prohibits racism and other forms of intolerance, including in sport, the law is not applied in the same way.

He told Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he did not believe his country was racist: “Spain, according to polls, has one of the highest levels of tolerance in the European Union. What is there is racist behavior.

However, he said, “there are many commentators, journalists and social media users who contribute to a climate of intolerance”.

Is it a global problem?

But racism in football, or in sport in general, is not unique to Spain.

In December last year, three black French footballers said they had been victims of racist abuse online after their side lost to Argentina in the World Cup final.

In the same month, Italian rugby star Cherif Traore revealed he received a banana during a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange with his teammates. The 28-year-old, who was born in Guinea and moved to Italy aged 7, said the hardest part of the incident was “to see most of my friends there laughing. As if everything was normal.”

And in 2021, three black footballers faced racist attacks after missing penalties in the European Championship final.

Black rugby star receives banana for Christmas from teammate denounces racism

Cindy Boren and Des Bieler contributed reporting.


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