Monday, April 22, 2024

Spain's football league wants to change the law after racism protests


Spain’s football league has called for changes to the country’s laws after racist abuse at one of the sport’s star players prompted a backlash from players, sponsors and the Brazilian government.

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior was the target of racist chants last weekend during an away game against Valencia and sparked an outcry after La Liga’s chief downplayed the incident.

The Brazilian forward, one of football’s top players, reported the abuse to the match referee. He was later sent off for violent conduct.

After the game, Vinicius Jr. posted a message on social media stating that the Spanish league “belongs to racists”, and criticized football officials for failing to deal with the problem. He later called on sponsors and broadcasters to push the league to take stronger action.

“It wasn’t the first time, not the second time, and not the third time,” he said. “Racism is normal in La Liga.”

Javier Tebas, La Liga’s chief executive, has come under fire for his response. Shortly after the match on Sunday, Tebas sent a message to Vinicius Júnior on Twitter, saying: “Before you criticize La Liga, you need to educate yourself properly. Don’t manipulate yourself.” Let’s do

La Liga on Tuesday said in a statement that it felt “powerless” and sought to shift focus. It blamed Spanish law for failing to give it the tools to address the issue, insisted it led a “relentless fight” against racism, and called for new powers to sanction clubs and fans. Vow to follow the government.

Vinicius Junior has been repeatedly targeted by racist football fans during matches this season. On Tuesday, Spanish police arrested seven people in two separate incidents, one of which involved hanging an effigy of a Brazilian player from a bridge near Real Madrid’s training ground.

Real Madrid have called on the attorney-general’s office to investigate the incident in Valencia, while the team’s head coach Carlo Ancelotti said the game should have been called off.

He said, “What we saw today is unacceptable – the whole stadium is chanting racist abuse.”

The episode has sparked outrage in Brazil, garnering headlines and provoking condemnation of the government. In a show of solidarity with the player, the lights at the landmark Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off on Monday evening.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva demanded that FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, and La Liga take “severe measures” in response.

“We cannot allow fascism and racism to take over football stadiums,” the left-wing leader said on Monday.

Brazil’s Ministry of Racial Equality said it has asked Spanish authorities to investigate the matter. In parallel, Brasília’s justice minister said he was considering an “extraterritorial” application of Brazilian law.

Local media reported that Lula planned to speak to the Spanish prime minister about the racist attacks. The Presidency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



La Liga’s business partners have also pushed for action. Its main sponsor, Santander, said it “strongly rejects all racism and discrimination in any form”. “We expect the appropriate authorities to take swift and decisive action.”

The players’ union, FIFPro, said protocols to deal with racism inside stadiums were “weak and ineffective” and needed updating.

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation, offered his support to Vinicius Jr. and acknowledged that the sport had “serious problems”. He criticized Tebas for his “irresponsible behaviour”.

Valencia has promised a lifetime stadium ban for those responsible, but said it was “completely wrong” to accuse the entire crowd of making racist remarks.

Additional reporting by Samuel Egini in London and Barney Jopson in Madrid