Real Madrid file hate crime complaint over Vinicius racial abuse

May 22, 2023, 8:19 AM

Real Madrid filed a complaint with Spanish hate crime prosecutors over the racist abuse suffered by  Vinicius Junior in their 1-0 defeat at Valencia on Sunday, while the president of the country's football federation said "Spain has a problem with racism."

The LaLiga match at Mestalla was stopped during the second half after the Brazil international identified a fan in the crowd behind the Valencia goal as having racially abused him.

After discussions between Vinicius, referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea and Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, the game continued, with fans being warned over the stadium's public address system about racist abuse, in accordance with UEFA's anti-racism protocol.

Vinicius was later sent off in added time after a clash with Valencia substitute Hugo Duro, before a further confrontation with the Valencia bench.

"Real Madrid expresses its outright rejection and condemns the events that occurred yesterday involving our player Vinícius Junior," Madrid said in a statement on Monday. "These events constitute a direct attack on the coexistence model of our social and democratic state of law.

"Real Madrid considers that such attacks also constitute a hate crime, and therefore it has filed the relevant complaint with the state prosecutor's office, specifically the prosecutor's office against hate crimes and discrimination, so that the facts can be investigated and responsibilities determined."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Vinicius on Monday and issued the following statement.

"The president of Real Madrid has met with Vinicius Junior to show his support and affection and to inform him about the steps that are being taken in his defense as well as to confirm that the club will exhaust all avenues in the face of this hateful situation."

Valencia released a statement confirming police have identified a fan who racially abused Vinicius. They said any fans identified as having been involved will be banned for life.

In social media posts after Sunday's game, Vinicius said that "racism is normal in LaLiga" and claimed that "in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists" following a series of incidents in which he has been racially abused by fans.

"Spain has a problem with racism," head of the national football federation RFEF Luis Rubiales said on Monday, calling for sanctions and punishment for the fans involved. 

"This has gone beyond football and this is not the first time," Rubiales said. "This is an educational problem in our country, of racism, and while we have one fan or any group of fans insulting players because of their sexual orientation or the color of their skin, then we have a serious problem that stains an entire team, all fans and this entire country."

Sources told ESPN that Vinicius's representatives had raised the possibility of leaving Real Madrid over the racist abuse he has suffered, and although the player is not currently considering leaving the club, he is "at the limit" due to his frustration over LaLiga's handling of the issue.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas responded to Vinicius' criticism in a Twitter exchange.

 "Neither Spain nor LaLiga are racist,"  Tebas said. "It is very unfair to say that. At LaLiga we denounce and tackle racism with all the toughness within our powers.

"This season, racist insults have been reported nine times. Eight of them have been for insults against Vini. We always identify these maniacs and file a complaint with the relevant bodies. It doesn't matter how few they are, we are always relentless."

Vinicius' management agency, TFM, further criticised LaLiga on Monday, comparing what happened to Vinicius at Mestalla with the murder of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in May 2020, sparking a wave of protests against police brutality.

 "Three years after the world was shocked by a video with George Floyd being brutally immobilized, today, the whole world saw an event in which Vinicius Junior was restrained in a cowardly, violent and unacceptable way during a discussion,"  TFM said in an Instagram post.

"This is just another reflection of what has been seen throughout this LaLiga season, in which it became clear to the world that in entire Spain, they do not accept the role of a young black man, who do not accept that the most decisive and relevant athlete in LaLiga is a young black man.

"The LaLiga veiled consent to all this discrimination was for months a message to all Spanish people, that it doesn't want to have the best, if they are black."

Vinicius, 22, has been subjected to repeated racist abuse since moving to Spain five years ago.

Brazilian politicians, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, players and clubs have come out to support Vinícius and criticize racism in the Spanish league.

The first trial against a fan accused of racial abuse in Spanish professional football is expected to happen at some point this year in a case involving Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams, who was insulted by an  Espanyol supporter in a match in 2020.

The Spanish league has made nine similar formal complaints for racist abuse against Vinicius 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.

Fans have been fined and banned from stadiums for their abuse, but so far only a Mallorca fan may end up going on trial for allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.

Tebas criticised Vinicius for attacking the league, saying the player didn't show up for talks on the subject of racism that he had requested himself.

Meanwhile,  Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has said the issue transcends club rivalries and that it is time for games to be stopped if there are incidents of racism in stadiums.

"It is sad and lamentable that these incidents still happen in 2023," he said in a news conference on Monday. "We must condemn any act of racism against any player and at any ground, beyond club allegiances.

"The shirt doesn't matter. Vinicius is a person before a footballer. We have to defend everyone regardless of their club colours. No one should have to put up with these insults.

"This is my working environment, and it's the only sport where insults are accepted, normalised. I am on the bench and people are shouting 'son of a whatever' and all kinds of insults. It is the moment to stop this.

"This is a message for the president of the league and of the federation. If there are insults, we must stop games. Enough is enough. I have to take advantage of my position as Barca coach and say it's the moment to say enough, stop the games."

Sam Marsden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.