Vinicius Junior breaks down in tears over racist abuse he suffers in Spain

Vinicius Junior, the star of Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team, could not stand it and simply broke down at the press conference

by Sededin Dedovic
Vinicius Junior breaks down in tears over racist abuse he suffers in Spain
© King Kabawo TV / Youtube channel

The Santiago Bernabéu, a stadium that usually reverberates with cheers for Real Madrid's flamboyant strikers, had a different tone on Monday, March 25, 2024. Vinicius Junior, the young Brazilian who is captivating fans with his skill and passion, sat in a press conference ahead of a friendly against Spain, his voice full of emotion.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke about the relentless racist abuse he endures in Spanish soccer. In the last 20 years, hardly any player has suffered more insults than Vinicius, and it is incomprehensible why because the player is very humble and moderate.

Vinicius Jr. has become a symbol of the fight against racism in La Liga. Last season alone, Spanish authorities documented 10 incidents of racist abuse directed at the 23-year-old. This abuse takes many forms, from vile chants from opposing fans to the horrific act of hanging Vinicius near Real Madrid's training ground.

"I just want to play soccer, but it's hard to move forward. I feel less and less like playing. It never crossed my mind (to leave Spain) because if I leave Spain I give the racists exactly what they want. I will stay because that way the racists can continue to see my face more and more.

I'm a bold player, I play for Real Madrid and we win a lot of titles and that doesn't sit well with a lot of people," said Vinicius as tears ran down his eyes.

Endrick of Brazil celebrates scoring the first goal with Vinicius Junior during the international friendly match between England© Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Vinicius' resilience is inspiring, but the onus should not rest on him alone.

This is a problem that requires a broader response. Real Madrid took a strong stand, filing complaints with Spanish authorities against Atlético Madrid and Barcelona fans over racist abuse directed at Vinicius. Ten days after the latest scandal, Real Madrid filed a complaint with the state prosecutor's office for crimes of hate and discrimination following the alleged racist chanting of a Barcelona fan directed at Vinicius Junior.

Vinicius then called on UEFA, European soccer's governing body, to fine Atletico for racist chanting ahead of his side's Champions League game against Inter Milan on Wednesday. Real Madrid said the complaint had been made over "racist and hateful abuse" directed at Vinicius near the Montjuic Olympic Stadium and the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid ahead of Barcelona's Champions League games against Atletico.

Abuse does not exist in a vacuum. Last season, Vinicius was criticized in Spain for celebrating his goals with a lavish dance. This seemingly harmless act was interpreted by some as disrespect, fueling the racist currents already present in Spanish soccer.

On June 16 last year, Vinicius Jr was appointed to head a special FIFA anti-racism committee composed of players who will propose stricter penalties for discriminatory behavior in soccer, Gianni Infantino, president of the International Football Association, announced at the time.

However, even though there were several projects, it seems that it could not eradicate the racism that is strongly present in Spanish hooligans. "There will be no more soccer with racism. Matches should be stopped immediately when this happens.

It's enough," Infantino said then after the meeting with Vinicius and the Brazilian national team. However, this time there was no official report from FIFA, although they condemned these and similar incidents.

Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid reacts towards Oscar Mingueza of Celta Vigo during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Real Madrid© Denis Doyle / Getty Images

At the beginning of this year, after the racist incidents in Italy, the President of the International Football Federation, Gianni Infantino, proposed the automatic defeat of clubs whose fans shout racist insults.

"In addition to the three-step process (stopping the game, then stopping again and finally suspending the game), we have to establish the automatic defeat of the club whose fans behave racist and because of which the games are stopped, to suspend stadiums around the world and to file criminal charges against racist," the president of FIFA wrote at the time on the X social network.

However, that did not happen again and racism continues to rage. This highlights the need for a multifaceted approach. La Liga must apply tougher penalties for racist behavior independent of FIFA, including bans and stadium closures.

Supporter education campaigns are key to challenging prejudice in supporter groups. Furthermore, the media must play a responsible role. Criticism of Vinicius' style of play is fair game, but amplifying the negativity without acknowledging the racist context only emboldens the abusers.

Tuesday's friendly between Spain and Brazil is being played under the banner of "One Skin", emphasizing the message of unity and racial equality. But words are just the beginning. Concrete actions are needed to ensure that talented players like Vinicius Jr.

can thrive on the field without fear of racist abuse. The fight against racism in soccer is far from over. It is time for soccer authorities, clubs, and fans to unite and ensure that the beautiful game truly lives up to its name, celebrating talent and skill regardless of race.

Real Madrid