São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday sent a strong message to soccer’s governing body, FIFA, and Spain’s “La Liga” after Vinícius Jr, a Brazilian forward who plays for Real Madrid, was the target of racist chants during a match earlier that day.
President Lula expressed solidarity with the Brazilian athlete and demanded action from the league organizers and authorities in Spain. On Tuesday, it was reported that seven people have been arrested by the Spanish government.
“It is not acceptable that in the middle of the 21st century, we witness racial prejudice gaining strength in various football stadiums in Europe,” said Lula during a press conference. “I believe it is important for FIFA, the Spanish league, and leagues in other countries to take serious measures because we cannot allow fascism and racism to take hold in football stadiums.”
Other members of Brazil’s government also spoke out. Minister of Racial Equality Anielle Franco and Minister of Human Rights Silvio Almeida were firm in their statements about the case. In an interview with CNN, Almeida stated that the organizers of the Spanish league are complicit in racism.
“The silence of the authorities, sponsors, part of the press, other clubs, and the Spanish league is a complicit silence with racism,” said the minister.
Minister Franco told journalists that Brazil will demand a thorough investigation and answers from the Spanish authorities, as according to her, the Spanish league does not have a history of combating racism.
“The track record of La Liga is not good, it has a very racist track record,” said the minister.
Anielle Franco also mentioned having spoken with Vinícius Jr’s relatives to convey Brazil’s full support for him. “We will take care of the Black people here and outside of Brazil,” she said.
The racist attacks aimed at Vinícius Jr on Sunday were not new for the Brazilian forward. The Real Madrid star has been a victim of these types of aggressions for over a year.
On this occasion, racist chants began to break out in the stands of the Mestalla stadium, home to Valencia Club de Fútbol.
On social media, dozens of videos show that at times the screams calling Vinicius Jr a “monkey” overpower all the other sounds in the stadium.
The Brazilian forward spent almost the entire game enduring insults without any action taken by referees or league officials to put an end to the verbal abuse.
In the dying minutes of the second half, after a scuffle with Valencia players, Vinicius Jr ended up being sent off by the referee, much to the delight of the packed stadium. With a one-nil victory over the mighty Real Madrid and Vinicius Jr’s expulsion, the racists’ celebration was complete.
On his social media, Vinicius Jr vented his frustrations. He stated that he believes racism is considered normal in the Spanish league and sadly, Spain accepts exporting the image of a racist country to the world.
“It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third,” he wrote. “Racism is the norm in La Liga. The competition considers it normal, so does the Federation, and the opponents encourage it. I deeply regret it.”
He added that he feels sorry for Spaniards that don’t agree, but in Brazil, Spain is today known as a country of racists. He ended by saying, “I am strong, and I will stand up against racists until the end, even from afar.”
The severity of the case prompted the Spanish government and the country’s prime minister to speak out. In a tweet, Pedro Sánchez condemned the hatred directed towards the Brazilian player.
“Zero tolerance for racism in football. The sport is based on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should not have a place in our football and in our society,” wrote Sánchez.
The Spanish government later released a statement affirming that the behavior of the aggressive fans does not represent the values of Spanish society and harms the country’s image.