Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior calls out Spanish soccer league after enduring racist abuse
MADRID (AP) - Vinícius Júnior was subjected to racist abuse yet again on Sunday with the Brazil star saying the Spanish league "now belongs to racists."
The latest abuse against Vinícius came in Real Madrid's 1-0 loss at Valencia, a match that had to be temporarily stopped after the Brazil forward said he was insulted by a fan behind one of the goals at Mestalla Stadium.
"It wasn't the first time, or the second or the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga. The competition thinks it's normal, as does the federation, and the opponents encourage it," Vinícius said on Instagram and Twitter. "The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Lionel) Messi now belongs to racists ... But I'm strong and I will fight until the end against the racists. Even if far from here."
The 22-year-old Vinícius, who is is Black, has been subjected to racist abuse since moving to Spain five years ago.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti considered replacing the star forward after Vinícius said fans at Mestalla chanted "monkey" toward him. He said Vinícius initially didn't want to continue playing.
"What happened today shouldn’t happen," Ancelotti said. "When a stadium yells ‘monkey’ to a player, and the coach considers taking him out of the field because of that, it means that there is something bad in this league."
The veteran coach refused to talk about the game after what happened, saying his team's loss meant nothing.
"The game should have been stopped," Ancelotti said. "This shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t only one person, as it has happened in several stadiums. Here, it was a stadium racially insulting a player, the game had to stop. I would have said the same thing if it was 3-0 for us. You have to stop the game, there was no way around it."
Ancelotti said he asked the referee to stop the match, but was told that the protocol was to first make an announcement to fans, then take other action if the problem continued.
Ancelotti said Vinícius didn’t want to keep playing but he told the player that he wasn’t guilty of anything and that he was the victim. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said he would have left the field with Vinicius if his teammate had decided to stop playing.
"Vinícius is upset, obviously, but more than upset, he is sad," Ancelotti said.
According to Spanish media reports, Valencia has identified two fans who allegedly insulted Vinícius behind one of the goals.
Some comments on social media claimed fans were saying the Spanish word "tonto" (silly) instead of "mono" (monkey).
Valencia later said it expected Ancelotti to apologize to Valencia fans for accusing them of racism after misunderstanding what was said. The coach told a news conference that the referee wouldn't have started the racism protocol if he didn't think there was racism in the stadium.
Vinícius was later sent off after an altercation with Valencia players, and gestured to home fans about their team’s fight against relegation as he left the field. Valencia took a huge step toward avoiding the drop with the 1-0 victory opening a five-point gap to the bottom three teams entering the final three rounds.
"The reward for the racists was my ejection!" Vinícius said on Instagram, along with the Spanish league's slogan "It's not soccer, it's LaLiga."
Vinícius had called the referee around the 70th minute and started pointing to a person sitting among the Valencia supporters. The player went near the stands and confronted the fans while players from both teams tried to restore calm.
VALENCIA, SPAIN - MAY 21: Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid protest during the Spanish league, La Liga Santander, football match played between Valencia CF and Real Madrid at Mestalla stadium on May 21, 2023, in Valencia, Spain. (Photo By Ivan Terron/Eu
Police eventually arrived in the stands to deal with the supporters. An announcement was made asking fans to behave.
The match at Mestalla was stopped for about seven minutes, and not long after it resumed Vinícius clashed with Valencia players and was sent off for pushing one of his opponents away with a hand to his face.
After the decision of his ejection was made following a video review, Vinícius started applauding ironically. As he was leaving the field, he made a "going down" gesture over relegation. That upset players on the Valencia bench and some charged toward Vinícius as he left the field, causing the game to be temporarily stopped again.
Valencia coach Rubén Baraja condemned the behavior of Valencia fans but also criticized Vinícius, saying he should have respected the club and its supporters.
Vinícius' teammate Dani Ceballos criticized the fans but said he also expected Vinícius to apologize for his gestures after being sent off.
Ancelotti said Vinícius' reaction was normal considering what he had gone through moments earlier.
The Spanish league said it has requested images from the game to investigate what happened. It will also probe possible insults against Vinícius outside Mestalla, when a large group of fans also allegedly called the player a monkey as the Madrid bus arrived.
League president Javier Tebas criticized Vinícius for attacking the league without fully understanding what it has done recently to combat racism, and saying the player didn't show up for talks on the subject that he had requested himself.
The league has made nine formal complaints over racist abuse against Vinícius over the last two seasons, with many of the cases being shelved. A Mallorca fan may end up going on trial after allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva joined a wave of Brazilian politicians, players and clubs coming out to support Vinícius and criticize racism in the Spanish league.
Lula told a news conference in Japan on the sidelines of a G7 meeting that he hopes FIFA, the Spanish League and other soccer bodies "take measures so we don’t allow racism and fascism to take over" in the sport.
The first trial against a fan accused of racial abuse in Spanish professional soccer is expected to happen at some point this year in a case involving Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams, who was insulted by an Espanyol supporter in a match in 2020.