7 Arrested Over Vini Racist Abuse

Vinicius Junior

Seven people have been arrested in connection with two separate racist incidents involving the Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior, Spanish police said on Tuesday.

Three of the arrests — in Valencia — were related to racist abuse aimed at Vinicius during Madrid’s LaLiga defeat at Mestalla on Sunday. Four arrests in Madrid involve the hanging of a mannequin wearing a Vinicius shirt from a bridge near Real Madrid’s training ground in January.

The abuse suffered by Vinicius at Mestalla has sparked a global outcry, especially in Brazil, where politicians, including President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, players and clubs have come out in support of the player, criticising the handling of racism in Spanish football.

Sunday’s game stopped for almost 10 minutes when Vinicius identified a Valencia fan behind the goal as having racially abused him, while videos on social media showed fans abusing the Brazil international before and during the match.

The lights on Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue were switched off for an hour on Monday in a display of solidarity with the player.

The bridge incident occurred in January, ahead of the Copa del Rey match between Real Madrid and local rivals Atletico Madrid.

A banner with the words “Madrid hates Real” — a slogan associated with a group of Atletico’s hardcore ultras — was displayed alongside the dummy, before the quarterfinal game at the Bernabeu.

In a social media post on Sunday, Vinicius said that “racism is normal in LaLiga” and “the championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi, today belongs to racists.”

LaLiga have now reported a total of 10 cases involving racist abuse aimed at Vinicius to prosecutors over the past two seasons, including the mannequin hung from the bridge and Sunday’s events at Mestalla.

Atletico Madrid described the bridge incident as “repugnant” and “unacceptable” in a statement published after it happened.

It followed a group of Atletico fans being filmed directing racist abuse at Vinicius outside their Metropolitano stadium ahead of the previous derby with Madrid in September.

Prosecutors chose not to press charges in that case, arguing that the chanting, while “unpleasant” and “disrespectful,” lasted “a few seconds” and did not constitute a criminal offence.

Speaking in his news conference on Tuesday, Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said he is confident Vinicius will remain at the club despite the racism he has suffered this season.

“Vinicius loves Real Madrid. His love for Real Madrid is big,” Ancelotti said. “He wants to have his career here and play for this team… He knows his future has to be here.

“A lot of things go through people’s heads in these moments but his idea isn’t [leaving], he wants to play for Real Madrid.”

LaLiga said in a statement on Tuesday that it felt “impotent” to tackle the issue while Spanish legislation limited its actions to merely detecting and reporting racist incidents.

“LaLiga is extremely frustrated by the lack of sanctions and convictions by sporting disciplinary bodies, public administrations and the jurisdictional bodies to which complaints are made,” it said in a statement.

The federation can cancel a match if racist insults continue after a 10-minute period in which the game is paused and the crowd warned. To date, no match in Spain has enforced it.