Red Card for Racism: Vinicius Refuses to Play After Racist Incident in Real Madrid

Racism is awakening all over Europe, and this is especially felt on soccer fields, in recent years there have been many such cases, and the last in a series took place in Spain

by Sededin Dedovic
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Red Card for Racism: Vinicius Refuses to Play After Racist Incident in Real Madrid
© Denis Doyle / Getty Images

Racism has been a topic circulating on soccer pitches in Spain for decades, and the recent Vinicius Junior case is just one of many that has once again highlighted this serious problem. Real Madrid were recently at the center of controversy when racist chants directed at Vinicius emerged ahead of Atletico Madrid's Champions League match against Inter.

This led to a reaction from the Spanish league, which decided to report the incident, but also caused a stormy reaction from the player himself. The post on social media that further fueled this situation came from Real's digital team.

The logo of the group "Vini Vici", inspired by the evolution of apes to humans, was placed as part of the announcement, which caused a negative reaction from Vinicius. He associated this logo with the racism he experienced from fans, which further deepened his dissatisfaction.

The player is reportedly very angry and has refused to play against Valencia in the next game. This incident is not an isolated case. Vinicius has already had conflicts with the club's digital team. Last year, for example, a training video was leaked in which Vinicius can be heard expressing his displeasure.

Such lapses are rare at a club like Real Madrid, where every announcement is carefully filtered before being published. However, it is obvious that there was an oversight, which resulted in this incident. Although there is a strong campaign in Spanish soccer to fight against racism, it seems that it is harder than we expected to eradicate racism.

There is cause for concern not only with Vinicius but also with other players. The fear of some informal statement being leaked to the public became present among the black players. They are now running away from the people in charge of social media at the club, and the trust between the players and the club's management is broken.

Spanish sources state that this problem has been going on for a long time in the Real team, but the board and management of the club have skillfully hidden it all these years. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Racism on soccer fields around the world, including in Spain, is a systemic problem that requires broader social change.

Real Madrid, as one of the biggest clubs in the world, has a responsibility to actively oppose such incidents and to promote inclusivity and tolerance. Some of the best players of the royal club now and in the past were black, and the fact that this is happening in the year 2024 just seems incredible.

A detailed view of the No Room For Racism branding on the handshake board during the Premier League match between Newcastle Unit© Ian MacNicol / Getty Images

Vinicius is just one of many soccer players who have been the target of racism during their careers.

This is a problem that cannot be ignored or minimized. Racism not only harms individuals, as in this case Vinicius, but also the entire community. Racism creates an atmosphere of hostility and discrimination, which is not in accordance with the values of sport.

Research shows that dark-skinned soccer players may be exposed to a higher chance of receiving a yellow or red card compared to their white counterparts. There is also a lot of discrimination in transfers, as there are indications that skin color can affect a player's chances of being transferred to prestigious clubs.

Dark-skinned soccer players are often stereotyped as physically strong but less intelligent than their white counterparts. There are far fewer dark-skinned coaches, managers, and club owners, which makes it difficult for younger generations to see themselves in these roles and find their role models.

Solving this problem requires the involvement of all actors in the soccer community - from clubs, through leagues, to fans. Clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich must take a leading role in the fight against racism.

This means educating players, staff, and fans about the harmful consequences of racism, although this has proven to be ineffective because UEFA has been running the "Say No to Racism" campaign for a long time, but it only succeeded in reducing the scope but not eradicating this problem.

This UEFA campaign is simply not enough, stronger punishments and more dynamic and stronger involvement of soccer institutions like FIFA and UEFA are needed. They must do more to ensure that racist incidents are adequately sanctioned and that victims are protected.

Fines are also needed, as well as penalties of expelling the team from the competition due to the behavior of their players or fans. Racism is not only present in Spain, it is widespread throughout Europe and has its roots in the bloody history of slavery.

In January 2024, Udinese fans threw bananas at AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan during a Serie A match. In November 2023, Tottenham forward Son Heung-min was racially abused by Robert Garland during an English Premier League match.

One of the key steps towards overcoming the problem of racism in soccer is to create a culture in which differences are valued and respected. Movements like "Show Racism the Red Card" work to educate and raise awareness about racism in soccer.

However, regardless of the increasing number of racist insults in recent years, we still have to agree that there are more dark-skinned soccer players in managerial and coaching roles than before.

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