Spanish soccer is again embroiled in racism, with the support for Vinícius Júnior growing rapidly after yet another case of abuse against the Brazil forward this weekend.
Officials, players and former players showed solidarity with Vinícius, who on Sunday considered leaving the field after being insulted by fans during Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Valencia in the Spanish league.
Vinícius said after the match the Spanish league "now belongs to racists" and that Spain "is seen as a racist country."
"Full solidarity to Vinicius," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said. "There is no place for racism in football or in society and FIFA stands by all players who have found themselves in such a situation. Events during the match between Valencia and Real Madrid show that this needs to be the case."
The support for Vinícius, who is Black and as been subjected to racist abuse since he arrived to play in Spain five years ago, came from former players and current stars.
"You’re not alone," France forward Kylian Mbappé said on Instagram. "We are with you and we support you."
At least one fan was banned for life by Valencia because of Sunday's incident.
"From the moment that the unfortunate events occurred, the club have analyzed all the available footage, working alongside the authorities as rapidly as possible to clarify what happened in order to be able to act quickly and forcefully," Valencia said in a statement, adding it is working with police to identify more culprits.
Vinícius isn’t the only player in Spain, or in European soccer, to face racist abuse. But the Brazilian has been the focus of much of the hate in recent years, particularly this season. In January, an effigy of the player was hung off a highway bridge in Madrid.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and several of his cabinet ministers backed Vinicius and were critical of Spanish soccer.
"It is not fair that a poor boy who is winning in his life, becoming one of the best in the world, certainly the best at Real Madrid, is insulted in every stadium he goes to," Lula said.
Many were calling for solutions after the repeated racist attacks against Vinícius.
"Another case of racism against Vinícius in the Spanish league," said former Brazil striker Ronaldo, who spent five seasons playing for Real Madrid in the 2000s. "Until when? As long as there is impunity, there will be racism."
Real Madrid said it "strongly" condemned the abuse against Vinícius and said it formally denounced the case to Spanish prosecutors.
"These events represent a direct attack on the social and democratic model of coexistence of our State based on the rule of law," the club said.
The Spanish league has made nine similar formal complaints for racist abuse against Vinícius over the last two seasons, but most of the cases have been shelved by prosecutors. Another complaint was expected to be made after an investigation into what happened in Valencia was completed.
Fans have been fined and banned from stadiums for their abuse, but so far only a Mallorca fan may end up going on trial for allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.
"It wasn’t the first time, or the second or the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga. The competition thinks it’s normal, as does the federation, and the opponents encourage it," Vinícius said on Instagram and Twitter on Sunday. "The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Lionel) Messi now belongs to racists ... But I’m strong and I will fight until the end against the racists. Even if far from here."
Spanish league president Javier Tebas criticized Vinícius for attacking the league, saying the player didn’t show up for talks on the subject of racism that he had requested himself.
The league claims it only has authority to denounce cases, and that it’s up to local authorities to take action against the perpetrators and the soccer federation to punish clubs and referees. But the Spanish league does have control over the sporting sanctions in its own competitions. FIFA, the sport’s governing body, updated its own disciplinary code in 2013 — with options for point deductions and mandatory relegation for teams in the most serious cases — and asked competition organizers worldwide to follow.
Vinícius wasn’t happy with Tebas’ stance.
"Instead of criticizing racists, the league president shows up on social media to attack me," Vinícius said. "Although you may say otherwise or pretend not to notice, the image of your championship is shaken. Omitting yourself only makes you equal to the racists. I’m not your friend to talk about racism with you. I want actions and punishment."
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was "curious to see what happens" now, but didn’t expect much.
"Nothing will happen, because this has already taken place several times in other stadiums and nothing has been done. Nothing," Ancelotti said. "We have to evaluate this situation, because it is very serious."