- Real Madrid files hate crime complaint for racial abuse
- Brazilian government summons Spanish ambassador to explain incident
- FIFA calls for lifetime stadium ban for racist fans
MADRID, May 22 (Reuters) – Spanish football has a problem with racism, its soccer federation president Luis Rubiales said on Monday, echoing criticism from Brazil after Real Madrid filed a racial crime complaint against the series of insults hurled at his Brazilian striker Vinicius Jr.
The top-flight La Liga are under pressure to do more to tackle racism after the Brazilian president, FIFA and other sports stars such as French striker Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton expressed their support for Vinicius.
In a social media post, Vinicius Jr. called the racist abuse “inhumane” and called on sponsors and broadcasters to hold LaLiga accountable.
“What is missing to criminalize these people? And punish the clubs sportingly? Why don’t the sponsors make La Liga pay? Don’t the televisions take the trouble to broadcast this barbarity every weekend?” said Vinicius.
The statement came a day after the game against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium was halted for 10 minutes after the 22-year-old Brazilian striker reported fans who he believed were hurling racist comments at him.
“The problem is very serious and the press releases no longer work. Nor blame me to justify criminal acts,” he added.
The Brazilian statue of Christ the Redeemer, an emblematic monument of Rio de Janeiro, saw its lights go out on Monday evening in a sign of solidarity with the Real Madrid striker.
Vinicius, Real Madrid’s second top scorer this season in all competitions (23) behind Karim Benzema (29), previously called Spain “a country of racists” after the game against Valencia on Sunday.
This prompted a response from La Liga president Javier Tebas, who said on Twitter that enough was being done and that Vinicius should inform himself ‘before criticizing and slandering LaLiga’.
“The first thing is to recognize that we have a problem in our country,” Rubiales said at a press conference in Madrid on Monday. It is “a serious problem which also stains an entire team, an entire fanbase, an entire club, an entire country”.
The Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador on Monday to explain the incident, and its foreign ministry said in a statement that after “a new inadmissible episode”, it concluded that no effective measures had been taken. taken by the Spanish authorities to prevent such acts of racism. .
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter that there was “zero tolerance for racism in football”.
“Sport is founded on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should have no place in our football and in our society,” Sanchez added.
The Spanish Sports Council previously said in a statement that it would study footage from the match to identify those responsible for the lawsuits.
Videos posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed hundreds of Valencia fans chanting ‘Vinicius is a monkey’ as the Real Madrid bus arrived at the stadium ahead of the game.
“I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree but today in Brazil Spain is known as a country of racists,” Vinicius Jr wrote on Twitter.
Rubiales called Tebas’ comments “irresponsible”.
“Vinicius is probably more right than we think and we all need to do more against racism,” Rubiales said.
Real Madrid said on Monday they had filed a hate crime complaint over the incident – the 10th episode of alleged racism involving the young soccer star that has been reported to prosecutors this season, according to LaLiga.
Valencia Football Club said in a statement it had identified one fan and was working with police to confirm the identities of others who could face penalties, including lifetime stadium bans.
Spanish police are continuing to investigate a possible hate crime against Vinicius Jr after a model wearing his number 20 shirt was hung from a bridge outside Real Madrid’s training ground in January ahead of the Champions League match. club derby with Atletico Madrid.
Prosecutors have dropped a complaint filed for racist chanting aimed at the player in September during another game against Atletico Madrid.
Prosecutor archived case because ‘monkey’ chants were uttered only a few times and ‘only lasted a few seconds’, highlighting how difficult Spain’s criminal code makes it difficult to prosecute racist incidents during football matches.
“LaLiga are using these court cases to wash their hands of themselves, even though they actually have the power to make decisions and impose penalties on their own,” said Moha Gerehou, a Spanish journalist and anti-racism campaigner.
“LaLiga should be able to close stadiums and force a number of matches to be played behind closed doors in these cases, as this puts pressure on the clubs and the fans themselves.”
Spanish prosecutors have officially investigated three cases of racist acts during the 2021-22 season, according to the Interior Ministry. Under current rules, those found guilty of racist behavior can be fined up to 4,000 euros ($4,403) and banned from stadiums for a year.
There is growing momentum for Spain to do more to tackle the problem. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on FIFA and La Liga to “act concretely”.
Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton sent a virtual punch to Vinicius on Instagram, adding: “Stand up with you @vinjr.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called on La Liga to enforce a rule that penalizes clubs with point deductions if racist chanting persists. He added that racists should be banned for life from stadiums around the world. Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez called for similarly drastic measures: “You have to stop the game… One insult and everyone goes home.”
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Reporting by Fernando Kallas, Emma Pinedo and David Latona; written by Charlie Devereux Editing by Christian Radnedge
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