The manager of Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti, emphasized on the need for action, in incidents of racism in football, saying the situation is unacceptable. It was in the La Liga Round 35 match involving Valencia CF and Real Madrid on Sunday, May 21, 2023, in the city of Valencia, Spain that the incident of racism in the topflight Spanish League occurred.
Racism in football is not something new. It has been around for quite some time.
When we talk about racism, football won’t be the first thing that would come mind, it’s likely associated with something much more monumental.
In recent times, we have witnessed some of the most entertaining matchups the sport has ever seen, thanks to competitions like the European Champions League, FIFA World Cup (Male/Female), and a host of others around the globe. We have matches being played on at least a weekly basis. Little wonder it is being referred to as “the beautiful game.”
Sadly, racism plagues football, and has so much stained this beautiful game. It has eaten deep and is seeking to destroy the gains so far achieved. This ugly trend is still persistent and is on full display at stadiums around the world.
The way this ugly trend is going in Spanish football, it will make it look as if there are no measures to curb it. That however is not the case. In fact, La Liga has done much. Only that more needs to be done.
According to the referee’s official report, fans directed racists’ remarks at Vinicius Jr., screaming at him: ‘Monkey, monkey’ which led to the activation of the racism protocol, notifying the pitch delegate so that corresponding warning over the loudspeaker would be made. The match was halted until the announcement was aired.”
In this instance, Vinicius Jr. was sent off from an altercation, which erupted in response to the alleged racist abuse from spectators. The match was stopped for 10 minutes as he identified individuals in the crowd to the referee for racial slurs directed at him. His manager, Carlo Ancelotti was not happy with the incident. He said, “such incidents should not occur in the world we inhabit.”
Vinicius Jr. said on social media that it wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. “Racism is normal in La Liga. The competition thinks it’s normal, the Federation does too and the opponents encourage it. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Christiano and Messi today belongs to racists.”
La Liga has filed nine separate reports with government authorities regarding the incident.
La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, seemed to take issue with Vinícius Jr.’s response to the abuse, chastising him on social media for allegedly not showing up to a pair of meetings with him about racism. He said before criticizing and insulting La Liga, it is necessary that Vinicius Jr. not let himself be manipulated. And that he makes sure he fully understands “each other’s competencies and the work we have been doing together.”
In response to the incident, Real Madrid filed a hate crime complaint with Spanish prosecutors.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to believe that Tebas, or any other soccer bureaucrat, will successfully stamp out racism, given Europe’s long history of racial abuse in the game. In the 1970s, fans would spit at Black players from West Bromwich Albion, the English soccer club. In the 1990s fans called English pro Emile Heskey the N-word. Recently, after England lost to Italy at the Euro 2020 championships—which took place in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic – the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) received more than 600 reports of online racist comments made towards England’s Black players.
Last year, a fan threw a banana towards Brazilian player Richarlison after he scored during a friendly between Brazil and Tunisia in Paris. In April this year, Juventus fans could be heard making monkey noises as Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, who is Black, was preparing to take a penalty shot.
However, we commend soccer authorities like FIFA who have introduced stricter punishments for racist behavior. Pro leagues have to consider zero-tolerance measures. Teams could be forced to forfeit matches if officials can detect that their fans are racially abusing opponents. If that 1-0 victory, for example, were taken away from Valencia this week, their fans might act differently next time.
Sadly, the effects of racist abuse in the world’s most popular game is felt far beyond the stadium walls. At the conclusion of the G7 summit in Japan, Brazil’s President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, offered his support to Vinícius Jr. “It’s not possible,” Lula said “in the middle of the 21st century, to have such strong racial prejudice in so many football stadiums.”