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Vinicius Junior hails historic court decision against racist football fans

Vinicius Junior has welcomed the groundbreaking eight-month prison sentences given to three Valencia fans for racially abusing him during a La Liga match. This historic ruling marks the first criminal conviction for racist insults in a Spanish football stadium, reflecting a significant step in the fight against racism in sports.

Vinicius Junior hails historic court decision against racist football fans osf
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First Published Jun 11, 2024, 4:27 PM IST

Vinicius Junior has expressed his satisfaction with the eight-month prison sentences handed down to three Valencia fans for racially abusing him during a La Liga match last year. “This first criminal conviction in Spanish history is not for me. It's for all black people," the Real Madrid and Brazil forward posted on social media. "But, as I've always said, I'm not a victim of racism. I'm a destroyer of racists. Let the other racists be afraid, ashamed, and hide in the shadows. Otherwise, I'll be here to collect the debt," he wrote. He also thanked La Liga and Real Madrid for their support in achieving this historic verdict, adding, "There's more to come..."

The defendants, whose identities were not disclosed, were convicted of an offense against moral integrity with the aggravating factor of racially motivated discrimination, the Valencia court announced. They were also banned from attending matches for two years. As first-time offenders with no prior criminal record, their prison sentences were suspended, following the standard practice in Spain for sentences under two years.

Spain's La Liga praised the ruling as "the first sentence handed down for racist insults in a Spanish football stadium." La Liga president Javier Tebas called the sentence "very good news for the fight against racism in Spain," emphasizing that it sends a clear message that such behavior will be prosecuted and face criminal consequences.

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, described the decision as "a positive step" on Instagram. He reinforced FIFA's stance against racism, stating, "Our message to people anywhere in the world who behave in a racist way when they are dealing with football is clear: we don't want you."

Brazilian football federation president Ednaldo Rodrigues called for harsher penalties for such incidents, viewing this decision as a starting point. "The decision is a start, a path, and shows the importance of pressure from society for the authorities to really get involved in this fight against racism," Rodrigues said. He added that the punishment, while mild, represents progress.

The incident occurred on May 21, 2023, at Valencia's Mestalla stadium, where home fans hurled abuse and made monkey noises at Vinicius. Play was halted as Vinicius pointed out the culprits, leading stadium officials to demand an end to the racist insults before the match resumed. Court documents revealed that the three fans "shouted and chanted at the player with evident contempt for the color of his skin," making racist gestures and monkey noises that caused Vinicius to feel "frustration, shame, and humiliation."

In a statement, Real Madrid noted that the three fans had admitted their wrongdoing and apologized to Vinicius, the club, and everyone affected by their behavior. The club urged fans to avoid all expressions of "racism and intolerance."

The incident was part of a series of racist attacks on Vinicius, prompting international outrage. Brazil lodged a diplomatic protest and showed solidarity by turning off the lights on Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue. Real Madrid filed a criminal complaint, leading to the swift arrest of the three youths involved in the Valencia match.

Vinicius, who joined Real Madrid in 2018, has been subjected to racist abuse at several Spanish stadiums. In January 2023, a dark-skinned effigy wearing a Vinicius shirt was found hanging from a bridge near the club's training ground, with a banner reading: "Madrid hates Real." Four Atletico Madrid fans were charged over the incident, with prosecutors seeking four-year jail terms.

The Valencia incident has sparked a debate about whether Spain is doing enough to combat racism in football, highlighting the ongoing challenges in addressing this issue.

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