11 Jun 2024, 10:23

Vinicius welcomes jail sentence for racially abusive fans

MADRID, June 11, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Vinicius Junior welcomed the eight-month
prison sentences handed down on Monday to three Valencia fans for racially
abusing him during a La Liga match last year.

"This first criminal conviction in Spanish history is not for me. It's for
all black people," the Real Madrid and Brazil attacker posted on social

"But, as I've always said, I'm not a victim of racism. I'm a destroyer of
racists. Let the other racists be afraid, ashamed and hide in the shadows.
Otherwise, I'll be here to collect the debt," he wrote.

"Thank you to La Liga and Real Madrid for helping to bring about this
historic verdict. There's more to come..."

The defendants, who were not identified, were convicted of an offence against
moral integrity with the aggravating factor of racially motivated
discrimination, the Valencia court said.

They were also slapped with a two-year match ban. With no previous criminal
record, none will serve jail time as judges habitually suspend prison
sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders.

Spain's La Liga hailed the ruling as "the first sentence handed down for
racist insults in a Spanish football stadium".

"This sentence is very good news for the fight against racism in Spain," said
La Liga president Javier Tebas.

"It sends a clear message to anyone who goes to a football stadium to hurl
insults that La Liga will find and prosecute them and that they will face
criminal consequences."

Gianni Infantino, the president of world football's governing body FIFA,
posted on Instagram the decision was "a positive step".

"Our message to people anywhere in the world who behave in a racist way when
they are dealing with football is clear: we don't want you," Infantino wrote.

The Brazilian football federation president Ednaldo Rodrigues called for
harsher punishments for such incidents.

"The decision is a start, a path, and shows the importance of pressure from
society for the authorities to really get involved in this fight against
racism," Rodrigues said.

"It was a punishment that I interpret as still mild, but steps are being
taken step by step," he added.

The incident took place on May 21, 2023 at Valencia's Mestalla stadium when
home fans hurled abuse and made monkey noises at the Real Madrid forward.

Play was halted as Vinicius stood in front of fans and pointed at those
responsible, prompting stadium officials to demand an end to racist insults
before the match could resume.

All three "shouted and chanted at the player with... evident contempt for the
colour of his skin... making racist gestures of contempt and causing him to
feel frustration, shame and humiliation", court documents showed.

It said they were "simulating the gestures made by primates and repeatedly
making... the sound made by monkeys" in front of a full stadium and a
"massive" TV, radio and media audience.

In a statement, Real Madrid said the trio had admitted their wrongdoing and
sent a letter apologising to Vinicius, the club and to everyone else "who
felt belittled or offended by their behaviour", urging fans to avoid all
expressions of "racism and intolerance".

- Years of abuse -

The incident, the latest in a string of racist attacks on the player, sparked
an international outcry with Brazil lodging a diplomatic protest and turning
off the lights on Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue in solidarity.

Real Madrid filed a criminal complaint and within days, police arrested three
youths for "insults and gestures with racist overtones" at the Valencia match
on suspicion of "an alleged hate crime" -- an offence which includes racist

Now 23, Vinicius has been taunted by opposition fans since joining Real
Madrid in 2018, suffering racist abuse at several Spanish stadiums.

In January 2023, a dark-skinned effigy wearing a Vinicius shirt was found
hanging from a bridge near the club's training ground alongside a banner
saying: "Madrid hates Real".

In December, four Atletico Madrid fans were charged over the incident, with
prosecutors pushing for jail terms of four years. No date has yet been set
for a trial.

The Valencia incident sparked a fierce debate about whether Spain is doing
enough to stamp out racism in football.

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