Vinícius Júnior gains more support as Spanish football again embroiled in racism
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior, centre, walks past head coach Carlo Ancelotti, front left, after being sent off the pitch during a Spanish La Liga football match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. The game was temporarily stopped when Vinicius said a fan had insulted him from the stands. He was later sent off after clashing with Valencia players. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

MADRID (AP) — Spanish football is again embroiled in racism, with the support for Vinícius Júnior growing rapidly after yet another case of abuse against the Brazil forward this weekend.

Officials, players and former players showed solidarity with Vinícius, who on Sunday considered leaving the field after being insulted by fans during Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Valencia in the Spanish league.

Vinícius said after the match the Spanish league “now belongs to racists” and that Spain “is seen as a racist country.”

“Full solidarity to Vinicius,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said. “There is no place for racism in football or in society and FIFA stands by all players who have found themselves in such a situation. Events during the match between Valencia and Real Madrid show that this needs to be the case.”

The support for Vinícius, who is Black and as been subjected to racist abuse since he arrived to play in Spain five years ago, came from former players and current stars.

“You’re not alone,” France forward Kylian Mbappé said on Instagram. “We are with you and we support you.”

At least one fan was banned for life by Valencia because of Sunday's incident.

“From the moment that the unfortunate events occurred, the club have analysed all the available footage, working alongside the authorities as rapidly as possible to clarify what happened in order to be able to act quickly and forcefully,” Valencia said in a statement, adding it is working with police to identify more culprits.

Vinícius isn’t the only player in Spain, or in European football, to face racist abuse. But the Brazilian has been the focus of much of the hate in recent years, particularly this season. In January, an effigy of the player was hung off a highway bridge in Madrid.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and several of his cabinet ministers backed Vinicius and were critical of Spanish football.

“It is not fair that a poor boy who is winning in his life, becoming one of the best in the world, certainly the best at Real Madrid, is insulted in every stadium he goes to,” Lula said.

Many were calling for solutions after the repeated racist attacks against Vinícius.

“Another case of racism against Vinícius in the Spanish league,” said former Brazil striker Ronaldo, who spent five seasons playing for Real Madrid in the 2000s. “Until when? As long as there is impunity, there will be racism.”

Real Madrid said it “strongly” condemned the abuse against Vinícius and said it formally denounced the case to Spanish prosecutors.

“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.

The Spanish league has made nine similar formal complaints for racist abuse against Vinícius over the last two seasons, but most of the cases have been shelved by prosecutors. Another complaint was expected to be made after an investigation into what happened in Valencia was completed.

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