Seven arrested in Spain for racial abuse of Real Madrid star Vinicius

Seven arrested in Spain for racial abuse of Real Madrid star Vinicius

Seven people have been arrested in Spain in connection with two incidents of racist abuse targeting Real Madrid star forward Vinícius Júnior.

Spanish police said Tuesday that three arrests in Valencia were related to “monkey” chants and other abuse aimed at the Brazilian star during Real Madrid’s La Liga loss Sunday at Valencia. Four arrests in Madrid involved the hanging of an effigy wearing a Vinícius Júnior shirt near Real Madrid’s training ground in January, police said earlier in the day.

The arrests come as racist abuse of Vinícius in Spain has drawn global attention, including from Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Sunday’s match was stopped for almost 10 minutes after Vinícius identified a Valencia fan who he said racially abused him. Social media video showed fans abusing Vinícius before and during the match, and Vinícius wrote on Instagram after the match that “racism is normal in La Liga” and “the championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi, today belongs to racists.”

Brazil formally protested to the Spanish ambassador, and Agence France-Press reported that the government would also lodge official complaints with authorities in Madrid and La Liga over the latest abuse. In a symbolic form of protest Monday, the lights were turned off on Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue for an hour in support of Vinícius.

On Monday, Real Madrid filed a hate crime complaint with the Spanish state attorney general’s office and said in a statement that it showed “its strongest rejection and condemns the events that occurred … against our player Vinícius Júnior.” In addition, the club announced that its president, Florentino Perez, met with the player “to show him his support and affection, to inform him of all the steps that are being taken in his defense and to confirm that the club will go to the last consequences in the face of such a repugnant situation of hate.”

The Movement Against Intolerance and the Association of Spanish Soccer Players also announced in a joint statement that they had filed a complaint with the same office over racial slurs.

Vinícius has been the target of abuse by opposing fans since his arrival in Madrid as an 18-year-old in 2018, and he has even been subjected to racism by officials within the Spanish soccer world. In September, after Vinícius danced as part of a goal celebration, the president of the Spanish agents’ association was widely condemned for saying on a television program that the Brazilian star should “respect your mates and stop playing the monkey.” The effigy incident occurred four months later, when a banner that bore the words “Madrid hates Real,” a slogan associated with hardcore fans of Atlético Madrid, was displayed on a bridge alongside the effigy before the rivals’ Copa del Rey quarterfinal at the Bernabéu.

La Liga said in a statement Sunday that it has lodged nine complaints to governmental anti-racism authorities over alleged incidents involving Vinícius since October 2021 and asked fans to identify those among them who engage in racial abuse.

“It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in La Liga,” Vinícius wrote of the abuse Sunday. “The competition thinks it’s normal, the Federation does, too, and the opponents encourage it.”

Beatriz Rios contributed to this report.

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