Police authorities in Spain have arrested four people in connection with an incident in which a mannequin representing Real Madrid and Brazil football star, Vinícius Júnior was hung under a bridge in January.
A hate crime investigation had begun after an effigy wearing Vinícius’s No 20 shirt was hung from a bridge right in front of the training ground of Real Madrid, the player’s club team, alongside a banner that read “Madrid hates Real”.
On Monday, prosecutors in Spain opened an investigation over racist chants which was hurled at Vinícius Junior during their game with Valencia over the weekend weekend, as the head of Spain’s football federation admitted the country had a problem with racism.
The prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Valencia, where the game took place, was investigating the incident as a possible “hate crime”, judicial sources said, after Luis Rubiales of the Royal Spanish Football Federation called for zero tolerance.
Officials, players and former players in Brazil and Spain showed solidarity with 22-year-old Vinícius, who on Sunday considered leaving the field after facing racist taunts from fans during Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Valencia in the Spanish league.
“We have a problem of behaviour, of education, of racism,” Rubiales said. “And as long as there is one fan or one group of fans making insults based on someone’s sexual orientation or skin colour or belief, then we have a serious problem.”
Valencia said it had banned one of its fans for life and was looking to identify others. “The club has analysed all the available footage, working alongside the authorities as rapidly as possible to clarify what happened,” it said in a statement.
Real Madrid said it strongly condemned the incident, which it believed to be a hate crime. “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.
Speaking after Sunday’s game, Real Madrid’s Italian manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said the racist abuse – in which Vinícius was repeatedly called a “monkey” – highlighted how “something bad is happening in this league”.
The Spanish league has made nine similar formal complaints for racist abuse against Vinícius over the past two seasons, most of which have been shelved. Fans have been fined and banned from stadiums, but so far only a Mallorca supporter may end up going on trial for allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.
The first trial of a fan accused of racial abuse in Spanish professional football is expected to happen at some point this year in a case involving the Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams, who was insulted by an Espanyol supporter during a match in 2020.