The head of Spain’s national football federation has said the country has a problem with racism, as Brazilian politicians, sports stars and celebrities staged a show of support for Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, who had abuse hurled at him during a match on Sunday.
Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, called for zero tolerance of racism in stadiums after abuse was directed at the 22-year-old Brazilian forward during a match at Valencia. “We have a problem in our country: of behaviour and racism,” Rubiales said on Monday.
Speaking after Sunday’s game, Real Madrid’s Italian manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said the racist abuse – which prompted his player to ask to be taken off the pitch after repeatedly being called a “monkey” – highlighted how “something bad is happening in this league”.
Real Madrid described the abuse as “a direct attack” on democracy and a “hate crime”, and announced it had lodged a complaint with prosecutors.
Vinicius Junior himself claimed Spain was now known “as a country of racists” in Brazil, where the latest in a series of attacks on him caused outrage.
Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called on Fifa and La Liga to take “serious measures” after Sunday’s scenes at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium. “We cannot allow fascism and racism to seize control of football stadiums,” Lula told reporters at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.
Cabinet members, including the justice minister, Flávio Dino, also demanded action from Spanish authorities. “This is deplorable, unacceptable and there must be consequences,” Dino tweeted.
Lula’s human rights minister, Silvio Almeida, said football, “especially in Europe, has become a space where racial hatred can be freely expressed”. The Brazilian news website UOL reported that Brazil’s foreign office was planning to summon Spain’s ambassador over the incident.
“If one of the world’s best players is treated this way, imagine what happens to those who do not have the same prominence,” tweeted Almeida, one of Brazil’s most celebrated black intellectuals. “It is in their name too that steps must be taken.”
Rio de Janeiro’s Flamengo club tweeted: “Football fades into the background when violence takes over. Violence for being who you are. Repeated, recurrent violence. These scenes are shocking and saddening. And it is even more shocking to know that this isn’t the first time and that so little has been done to fight this and stop it happening again.”
Belo Horizonte’s Atlético Mineiro club tweeted: “It is shameful that La Liga and its sponsors fail to take severe and definitive action against this situation which repeats itself in stadiums across Spain.”
Recife’s Sport Club denounced “the unacceptable and sickening” impunity surrounding a series of racist attacks in Spanish football. “Racism is a crime!” Sport tweeted, as many Brazilian newspapers splashed the scandal on their front pages.
Sports stars from around the world added their voices to Brazilian outrage over the treatment of Vinícius, who was sent off by the referee after being held in a headlock by a Valencia player.
“He receives a red card after being choked and receiving racial abuse during the game … wtf,” the former England defender Rio Ferdinand wrote on Instagram. “How many times do we need to see this young man subjected to this shit?? I see pain, I see disgust, I see him needing help … and the authorities don’t do shit to help him,” Ferdinand added.
“You’re not alone,” the French forward Kylian Mbappé posted on Instagram.
Vinicius Junior spoke out on Sunday in a pair of tweets against the attacks he has suffered.
“It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in La Liga,” he wrote. “This championship which was once that of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi now is that of racists. [Spain is] a beautiful nation, which has embraced me and I love it but which has decided to export the image to the world of a racist country. I’m sorry for the Spanish people who do not agree with this, but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.”
Vinicius Junior singled out La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, after his decision to criticise the Rio-born player on Twitter. “The image of your championship is shaken … All your omission achieves is making you equal to the racists … I want action and punishment,” he wrote.
Felipe Neto, one of Brazil’s best-known influencers, pointed out to his 16 million Twitter followers how Tebas had publicly declared his support for the far-right party Vox in 2019.
“This party wants to: outlaw immigrants, scrap laws that protect women from violence, outlaw gay marriage,” Neto wrote, adding: “The far right is a cancer.”