Spain launches probe into racist abuse of Real Madrid's Vinicius
Spanish police arrest four men suspected of hanging a dummy of Vinicius from a bridge in January in Madrid.
Spanish prosecutors have opened an investigation into the racist abuse against Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior as Brazil made a formal protest on Monday.
The 22-year-old Brazilian international has often been targeted by rival fans in Spain's La Liga and was once more in a 1-0 loss at Valencia on Sunday.
The game was held up for several minutes and the referee wrote in his post-match report that shouts of "monkey" had been directed against Vinicius.
A judicial source told AFP that the prosecutor's office in Valencia is investigating a possible hate crime.
Real Madrid indicated earlier it had filed a complaint "in order that the facts be investigated and those responsible be held accountable," adding that the chants "constitute a hate crime."
Brazil formally protested to the Spanish ambassador and will lodge an official complaint with authorities in Madrid. There is growing anger in the country, where the lights of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off for one hour in solidarity with the player.
"Black and imposing," Vinicius tweeted of the darkened statue, saying he was moved and thanked followers for their support.
"But I want, above all, to inspire and bring more light to our fight," he added.
Preto e imponente. O Cristo Redentor ficou assim há pouco. Uma ação de solidariedade que me emociona. Mas quero, sobretudo, inspirar e trazer mais luz à nossa luta.— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) May 22, 2023
Agradeço demais toda a corrente de carinho e apoio que recebi nos últimos meses. Tanto no Brasil quanto mundo… pic.twitter.com/zVBcD4eF8k
Vinicius has been racially abused at several stadiums this season in Spain. On one occasion, an effigy of him was hung from a bridge by Atletico Madrid fans.
During the Valencia match, Vinicius stood in front of home fans behind one goal and pointed to an apparent culprit. The match was delayed for several minutes in the second half.
Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea spoke to Mestalla stadium officials, who made an announcement calling for racist insults to stop before play resumed 10 minutes later.
Spain's government sports council is analyzing crowd images to identify the responsible fan or fans. The body has in similar incidents in the past proposed a one-year stadium ban and a fine of 4,000 euros ($4,300) for those found guilty.
Four detained over Vinicius hung effigy incident
In a related context, Spanish police arrested Tuesday four men suspected of hanging a dummy of Vinicius from a bridge in January in Madrid.
The four men, who were arrested in Madrid, are "suspected of a hate crime for hanging from a bridge a mannequin with Vinicius' shirt," police said in a statement.
Three of the men are members of an ultra fan group of a Madrid football club, the statement added, without identifying the club.
The dummy wearing Vinicius Junior's jersey was hung by the neck from a highway bridge near Real Madrid's training ground on January 26 ahead of the club's match against Atletico Madrid.
A banner in the red and white colors of Atletico was also flung over the bridge that read: "Madrid hates Real."
The message is often used by one of Atletico Madrid’s ultra fans groups, although it denied at the time being responsible for the display.
In the same context, Luis Rubiales, the head of Spain's football federation, said the country had a "problem" with racism.
Rubiales pointed out that there is "a serious problem" as long as there is just one fan "or group of undesirables who hurl insults" over someone's skin color.
But Real Madrid heavily criticized Rubiales, saying his refusal to ensure FIFA protocols -- which suggest matches should be halted when racist abuse is heard -- are upheld in Spain is exacerbating the problem.
"His inaction has resulted in the helplessness and defencelessness of our player Vinicius," said the club, which hit out at the federation for failing to "prevent the situation."
La Liga argues it has been "proactive" in previous cases of racism against Vinicius.
Vinicius was sent off in added time at the end of the game for hitting Valencia player Hugo Duro during a brawl.
Real Madrid said the match officials "made unfair decisions based on incomplete images" when Vinicius was shown a red card.
In this context, Spain's refereeing committee sidelined official Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva on Tuesday for his upcoming matches after his involvement in Vinicius Junior's red card against Valencia.
Spanish media report that the 47-year-old has been sacked although the Spanish football federation would not confirm that when questioned by AFP.
Iglesias Villanueva was in charge of VAR during Valencia's 1-0 La Liga win over Real Madrid on Sunday.
Later in the game, the 22-year-old was sent off for hitting Valencia's Hugo Duro, after referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea watched VAR footage of a brawl between the two teams.
However, the video Iglesias Villanueva showed did not include Duro grabbing the Brazilian around the neck with his arm first, which would also have been a red card offense.
Iglesias Villanueva was set to be the main VAR official for Real Betis' match against Getafe on Wednesday, and a VAR assistant for Athletic Bilbao's visit to face Osasuna on Thursday.
After the match, Vinicius issued a strongly worded statement saying that "today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists."
"The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Messi now belongs to racists," Vinicius added.
World football and beyond have rallied around Vinicius and demanded action.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned the abuse, telling a news conference at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, "He was attacked. He was called a 'monkey'."
Lula called for the Spanish league to take "serious measures".
On his part, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said Spanish football needed to be prepared to halt matches.
"The Spanish league has a problem, and Vinicius is not the problem. Vinicius is the victim," Ancelotti said on Sunday.
"What has happened today has happened before, but not like that, it's unacceptable," the Italian coach told reporters.
FIFA reiterated that stopping matches is permitted as well as players walking off the pitch in their three-step approach when racist abuse takes place.
"Full solidarity with Vinicius," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.