Vinicius football racism row continues in Spain
Ken Browne in Madrid

"In Brazil, Spain is known as a racist country," Vinicius Junior posted to his 36 million Instagram followers on Monday after suffering horrific racist abuse that shocked the football world.

The night before at Valencia Football Club's Mestalla stadium, the Real Madrid star had to play through a torrent of abuse, including monkey chants and racist slurs.

"It wasn't the first time, not the second and not the third. Racism is normal in La Liga," the 22-year-old Brazil star posted.

"The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi today belongs to racists," added the young footballer.


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On Sunday night, he demanded a pause in the match in the 70th minute, and even pointed out the fans who he believed were racially abusing him, to the referee. 

But the match continued, and so did the racism.

To add insult to injury, Vinicius Jr was then sent off later in the match - his first red card in La Liga.


'There's a lot of racism'

Real Madrid Coach Carlo Ancelotti, 63, who has spent a lifetime at the top of the game, was lost for words.

"When they showed him (Vinicius Jr) the red card the whole stadium was shouting 'monkey, monkey, monkey'.... There's not much to say," Ancelotti told journalists after the game in Valencia.

"We are very...I'm very upset. I've never experienced anything like it."

Ancelotti spoke again on Tuesday.

"Why do we have to put up with these insults? It has to stop because we are tired of being insulted every day. It happens to Barcelona coach Xavi, it happens to Vinicius. There is a lot of racism out there.

"What has this come to? This is not war, this is sport. Right now, I think we have a great opportunity to stop this," he added.

A lot of people have had their say following the incident, including Brazilian President Lula da Silva. He said football stadiums should not be surrendered to racism and fascism.

Xavi, coach of Real Madrid's eternal rival Barcelona, also weighed in.

"It doesn't matter what shirt you wear," he said, "Vinicius is a person before he is a footballer. I don't see bakers or teachers being insulted at work …. Try insulting a construction worker, you'll get a brick to the head."


Lifetime bans

Global condemnation has grown louder, while Spanish football has been criticized - with some characterizing Spanish society as racist. It all prompted Spanish authorities to probe the incident.

A few hours after the lights went out for an hour on Brazil's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in solidarity with Vinicius Jr, the police in Spain started to look for perpetrators.

Three were detained and arrested in connection with the racist chants at Valencia's Mestalla stadium. The police said that the football club had helped identify the individuals.

The club has since stated that any fans convicted of racism would be banned for life.

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior reacts as Valencia's Javi Guerra attempts to talk to him. /Pablo Morano/Reuters
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior reacts as Valencia's Javi Guerra attempts to talk to him. /Pablo Morano/Reuters

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior reacts as Valencia's Javi Guerra attempts to talk to him. /Pablo Morano/Reuters

Four more were arrested for hate crimes in Madrid on Tuesday after they hung an inflatable doll from a bridge wearing Vinicius Jr's shirt near Real Madrid's training ground in Valdebebas.

The incident on Sunday night was the 10th such racist episode that Vinicius Jr has had to endure, and each one had been reported by Real Madrid and La Liga to the Spanish authorities.

It is important to note that the Brazilian winger is not the first to suffer racist abuse in a Spanish football stadium. Marcelo, Dani Alves, Samuel Chukuweze and Inaki Williams have all been subjected to racist abuse.

In 2014, someone threw a banana at Dani Alves and he ate it. The footage of the incident went viral.

On Monday, the President of Spain's Football Federation Luis Rubiales admitted that the country has a problem with behavior, education, and racism.


'Is Spain racist?'

Meanwhile, Spanish politicians have been denying that racism exists in the country.

On Spain's right, the Partido Popular - including leader Alberto Feijoo who may be Spain's next Prime Minister - along with Spain's far-right party VOX denied that racism is a prevalent problem in Spain.

On the left, ruling Socialist Party Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez talked about "zero tolerance for racism" in the football sphere.

It is an issue that is featuring in this year's regional and general election campaigns.

However, in the long list of historical racist incidents in Spanish football, this one has damaged Spain's international reputation the most.

Vinicius Junior has been brave, refusing to suffer in silence, and has used his massive social media platform to call out the abuse he continues to receive.

Spain has had a week of introspection, with many media headlines asking: "Is Spain racist?"

It has started a national conversation that some hope will be a turning point, and as far as solutions go, many ideas have been floated.

Steps are being taken to give the referees more power - they may be able to suspend matches, issue points-deduction, subject teams to sanctions, and impose lifetime bans for perpetrators of racist abuse.


'Spain should be ashamed'

Brazilian legend Pele's daughter Kelly Cristina Nascimiento has also condemned the unfair treatment of her fellow Brazilian.

"What Vini went through… it's insane that people still do this and get away with it today. It's insane. Spain should be ashamed, La Liga should be ashamed," she lamented.

She also said that rather than honoring her father's by naming a stadium after him in every football playing country, as FIFA head Gianni Infantino suggested to her at his funeral, she would love something that can bring about real change.

"Wouldn't it be more powerful if my father's legacy was not a stadium but a movement, an action, a law, a tangible action that fights racism? So that Vini Jr today won't have to go through what my father went through in 1958."

Vinicius football racism row continues in Spain

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