As the Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador to clarify the incident of insulting his star and compatriot Vinicius Jr., the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, admitted on Monday that Spanish football suffers from the problem of racism.
La Liga is under pressure to do more to combat racism after the Brazilian president and FIFA, as well as stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and F1 driver Luis Hamilton, expressed support for the Brazilian.
In a social media post, Vinicius called the racist abuse "inhumane" and called on sponsors and broadcasters to hold La Liga accountable.
⏯️ Details of what happened with Vinicius in the Valencia match
▪️ Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiti: A full season and Vinicius is subjected to racism.
▪️ Haitham Farouk: Vinicius injustice today #La Liga | #فالنسيا_ريال_مدريد #LaLigaSantander pic.twitter.com/rLzqFSQA3l
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 22, 2023
"What is missing to criminalize these people? And punish clubs athletically? Why don't sponsors accuse La Liga (about what's happening)? Aren't TV stations upset when these barbaric (behaviors) are broadcast every weekend?"
The comments came a day after the match at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium was halted for 10 minutes, after the 22-year-old striker referred to fans who were reported to have made racist comments against him.
"The problem is very serious, and press releases are no longer useful. Don't blame me for justifying these criminal acts."
Não foi a primeira vez, nem a segunda e nem a terceira. O racismo é o normal na La Liga. A competição acha normal, a Federação também e os adversários incentivam. Lamento muito. O campeonato que já foi de Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano e Messi hoje é dos racistas. Uma nação...
— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) May 21, 2023
Vinicius, Real Madrid's second top scorer this season (23 goals) behind Karim Benzema with two goals, described Spain as a "country of racists" after Sunday's Valencia game.
That prompted a reaction from La Liga president Javier Tebas on Twitter, who said the league was doing enough and Vinicius should do so "before criticising and tarnishing the league".
Rubiales told a news conference in Madrid: "The first thing is to admit that we have a problem in our country. It's a serious problem that also taints an entire team, an entire fan base, an entire club and an entire country."
Summary of Valencia's win against Real Madrid. ⚽⏯️ #LaLigaSantander #ValenciaRealMadrid 1-0 pic.twitter.com/lQ87QORp78
— LaLiga (@LaLigaArab) May 21, 2023
It turned into a political crisis
The Brazilian government summoned the Spanish ambassador today to clarify the incident. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had concluded after "another unacceptable incident" that the Spanish authorities had not taken effective measures to prevent such racist acts.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter: "There is zero tolerance for racism in football."
"Sport is based on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should have no place in our football and in our society."
Spain's sports board said in an earlier statement it would consider footage from the match to summon any of the perpetrators to prosecutors.
Videos posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed hundreds of Valencia fans chanting "Vinicius a monkey" as the Real Madrid bus arrived at the stadium ahead of the match.
Vinicius wrote on Twitter after the match: "I'm sorry for those Spaniards who disagree (with what I will say) but today in Brazil, Spain is defined as a country of racists."
The president of the Spanish federation slammed Tebas' remarks as "irresponsible".
"Vinicius is probably right more than we think, and we all have to do more about racism," Rubiales said.
Ya que los que deberían no te explican qué es y qué puede hacer @LaLiga en los casos de racismo, hemos intentado explicártelo nosotros, pero no te has presentado a ninguna de las dos fechas acordadas que tú mismo solicitaste. Antes de criticar e injuriar a @LaLiga, es necesario... https://t.co/pLCIx1b6hS pic.twitter.com/eHvdd3vJcb
— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) May 21, 2023
Real said earlier today that he had filed a complaint alleging a hate crime following the incident in Valencia. This is the tenth episode in a series of racism against Vinicius that prosecutors have been reported to this season, according to La Liga.
Valencia said in a statement that it had identified one of the fans and was working with police to ascertain the identity of the others. He said he would apply a penalty to those involved, which could include a lifetime ban on stadiums.
Spanish police are also investigating a possible hate crime against Vinicius after a model wearing the player's number 20 shirt was hung on a bridge outside the Real training ground in January ahead of the summit match against Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti: The whole stadium insulted Vinicius and asked to stop the match #La Liga | #Valencia_Real_Madrid#LaLigaSantander pic.twitter.com/YS9RTYMfw4
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 21, 2023
Prosecutors dismissed a complaint filed over racist chants against the player in September, during another match against Atletico Madrid.
Prosecutors closed the case because chants of "monkey" were only repeated twice and "lasted for only a few seconds", highlighting how Spain's penal code makes it difficult to prosecute racist juveniles at football matches.
Moha Gerho, a Spanish journalist and anti-racism activist, said: "La Liga uses these legal issues to wash its hands (of what is happening) even though it already has the ability to make decisions and impose sanctions itself."
"The league must have the ability to close stadiums and force a number of matches without fans in such cases, as this puts pressure on clubs and fans themselves."
Spanish prosecutors formally investigated only 3 cases of racist incidents during the 2021-2022 season, according to the Interior Ministry. Under current rules, those found guilty of racist behaviour can be fined up to 4,4403 euros ($<>,<>) and banned from stadiums for a year.
There is growing momentum within Spain to do more to address the problem. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called on FIFA and La Liga to "take real action".
Hamilton (seven-time Formula 7 world champion) strongly supported Vinicius virtually via Instagram, telling him: "I stand with you Vinicius Jr."
FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed his "full solidarity" and called on La Liga to impose a rule punishing clubs by deducting points if racist chants from their fans continued.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez called for decisive action similar to what is happening, saying: "You have to stop the game. An insult from one person that will lead everyone to go home."