Author: Sam Jones in Madrid
Publish date: 2023-05-23 08:01:00
Spanish police have arrested three people in connection with the racist abuse suffered by Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinícius Júnior during a match with Valencia on Sunday, and detained a further four suspects over an effigy of the player that was hung from a bridge in Madrid four months ago.
In a brief statement on Tuesday morning, the Policía Nacional said three young men had been arrested in Valencia over the “racist behaviour” that took place during the match at the city’s Mestalla stadium.
The announcement came hours after the force revealed that four people had been arrested on suspicion of hate crimes relating to the hanging of an inflatable dummy dressed in Vinícius’s strip from a bridge in the Spanish capital on 26 January.
The dummy, which was accompanied by a huge banner reading “Madrid hates Real”, triggered an investigation that led to the arrests of four men who allegedly belong to the ultras faction of a Spanish club and who were already known to specialist officers.
The abuse directed at Vinícius has reopened the debate over racism in Spanish football – and in wider Spanish society – with the player himself saying that Spain is now known “as a country of racists” in his homeland.
“Racism is normal in La Liga,” he wrote on Twitter. “This championship which was once that of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi now is that of racists.”
Luis Rubiales of the Royal Spanish Football Federation said the abuse showed “a real problem” with racism and called for zero tolerance.
“We have a problem of behaviour, of education, of racism,” he said. “And as long as there is one fan or one group of fans making insults based on someone’s sexual orientation or skin colour or belief, then we have a serious problem.”
Valencia said it had banned one of its fans for life and was looking to identify others. “The club has analysed all the available footage, working alongside the authorities as rapidly as possible to clarify what happened,” it said in a statement.
Real Madrid said it strongly condemned the incident, which it believed to be a hate crime. “These events represent a direct attack on the social and democratic model of coexistence of our state based on the rule of law,” the club said.
Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, urged Fifa and La Liga to take “serious measures” after the scenes at Valencia. “We cannot allow fascism and racism to seize control of football stadiums,” Lula said.
“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,” the Brazilian president said while on a visit to Japan for the G7 meeting.
The racist behaviour was also condemned by Spanish politicians. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said there should be zero tolerance for racism in football, adding: “Sport is based on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should have no place in football nor in our society.”
Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the conservative People’s party, said racism and sport were “totally incompatible”.
Real Madrid’s Italian manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said the racist abuse – during which Vinícius was repeatedly called a “monkey” – highlighted how “something bad is happening in this league”.
The Spanish league has made nine similar formal complaints over racist abuse against Vinícius over the past two seasons, most of which have been shelved. Fans have been fined and banned from stadiums, but so far only a Mallorca supporter may end up going on trial for allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.
The first trial of a fan accused of racial abuse in Spanish professional football is expected to happen at some point this year in a case involving the Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams, who was insulted by an Espanyol supporter during a match in 2020.