Spain has racism problem, federation boss says after Vinicius Jr abused

(Update: edits headline, lede, adds more reactions)

Madrid, May 22 (EFE).- The president of the Spanish Football Federation on Monday said “Spain has a problem with racism”, as the fallout from the abuse suffered by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr during a match against Valencia intensified.

Thousands of fans chanted racist slurs at the player during their LaLiga match on Sunday, the latest in a series of similar incidents involving the Brazilian star to have occurred this season.

At a press conference, RFEF president Luis Rubiales backed Vinicius, and strongly condemned his abusers.

“The first thing is to acknowledge that we have a problem in our country – (a problem of) behavior, education, racism,” Rubiales said.

“As long as there is a single fan, a single rotten individual or a group of them who insult others due to their sexual orientation, skin color or belief, we have a serious problem. A serious problem that smears an entire team, a group of fans, a club, and a country,” he added.

“Vinicius Jr, just like any footballer, male or female, that is abused (…) has my support and that of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. And we are here, I repeat, to support and to help.”

His remarks stand in stark contrast to those of LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who responded on Twitter on Monday to Vinicius – who has been targeted with racist abuse by opposing fans on at least eight occasions this season – by saying it was “unfair” to say Spain or LaLiga are racist.

“We report and go after racism in the strongest possible way within our remit,” Tebas said.

On Sunday night, Tebas had also responded to claims by Vinicius that “racism is normal in La Liga” and that the league “belongs to racists” by accusing the player of failing to attend two meetings about how to tackle the issue and of failing to understand what LaLiga is able to do in such cases.

“Before you criticize and insult LaLiga, you need to inform yourself properly. Don’t let yourself be manipulated and make sure you understand the other’s competences and the work we have been doing together,” Tebas said.

“Once again, instead of criticizing racists,” Vinicius responded, “the president of LaLiga appears on social media to attack me.”

“Omitting yourself only makes you equal to racists,” the player told Tebas, adding that the “image” of LaLiga had been “shaken”.

The controversy has even reached Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, who “made a gesture of solidarity” to Vinicius and urged Fifa and LaLiga to take “serious action” against those responsible.

“It is not fair that a poor young man who triumphed in life and who is becoming one of the best footballers, suffers this kind of attack,” the Brazilian president said.

Several high-profile current and former players have also leapt to Vinicius’ defense, including Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez, former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand and Paris Saint-Germain’s World Cup winning striker Kylian Mbappe, who all condemned the racist abuse, demanded action and gave their backing to the player.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino posted his reaction on Instagram on Monday morning, saying “there is no place for racism in football or in society and Fifa stands by all players who have found themselves in such a situation. Events during the match between Valencia and Real Madrid show that this needs to be the case.”

Infantino went on to outline Fifa’s three point plan when racist incidents occur during matches, which includes stopping the game followed by a spoken warning to the teams that if the abuse continues the match will be canceled and three points will go to the opponent.

“Clearly, this is easier said than done, but we need to do it and we need to support it through education,” he said. EFE


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