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Vinicius welcomes jail sentence for racially abusive fans

By AFP

June 10, 2024 11:33 PM


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Vinicius Junior welcomed the eight-month prison sentences handed down on Monday 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 attacker 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.

"Thank you to La Liga and Real Madrid for helping to bring about this historic verdict. There's more to come..."

The defendants, who were not identified, were convicted of an offence against moral integrity with the aggravating factor of racially motivated discrimination, the Valencia court said.

They were also slapped with a two-year match ban. With no previous criminal record, none will serve jail time as judges habitually suspend prison sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders.

Spain's La Liga hailed the ruling as "the first sentence handed down for racist insults in a Spanish football stadium".

"This sentence is very good news for the fight against racism in Spain," said La Liga president Javier Tebas.

"It sends a clear message to anyone who goes to a football stadium to hurl insults that La Liga will find and prosecute them and that they will face criminal consequences."

Gianni Infantino, the president of world football's governing body FIFA, posted on Instagram that the decision was "a positive step".

"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," Infantino wrote.

The incident took place on May 21, 2023 at Valencia's Mestalla stadium when home fans hurled abuse and made monkey noises at the Real Madrid forward.

Play was halted as Vinicius stood in front of fans and pointed at those responsible, prompting stadium officials to demand an end to racist insults before the match could resume.

All three "shouted and chanted at the player with... evident contempt for the colour of his skin... making racist gestures of contempt and causing him to feel frustration, shame and humiliation", court documents showed.

It said they were "simulating the gestures made by primates and repeatedly making... the sound made by monkeys" in front of a full stadium and a "massive" TV, radio and media audience.

In a statement, Real Madrid said the trio had admitted their wrongdoing and sent a letter apologising to Vinicius, the club and to everyone else "who felt belittled or offended by their behaviour", urging fans to avoid all expressions of "racism and intolerance". 

 Years of abuse 

The incident, the latest in a string of racist attacks on the player, sparked an international outcry with Brazil lodging a diplomatic protest and turning off the lights on Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue in solidarity.

Real Madrid filed a criminal complaint and within days, police arrested three youths for "insults and gestures with racist overtones" at the Valencia match on suspicion of "an alleged hate crime" -- an offence which includes racist behaviour.

Now 23, Vinicius has been taunted by opposition fans since joining Real Madrid in 2018, suffering 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 alongside a banner saying: "Madrid hates Real".

In December, four Atletico Madrid fans were charged over the incident, with prosecutors pushing for jail terms of four years. No date has yet been set for a trial.

The Valencia incident sparked a fierce debate about whether Spain is doing enough to stamp out racism in football.


AFP


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