The deeply racist underbelly of LaLiga reared its ugly face once more last week with Vinicus Junior once more the target.
Vini tweeted about LaLiga’s inaction in combating racism at stadiums after being subjected to yet more vile chants coming off the pitch against Real Valladolid on Friday. “Racists continue to attend games for the best club in the world and LaLiga continue to do nothing” Vini says, “I will continue with my head held high and celebrating my victories and those of Madrid. In the end it’s MY fault.”
Os racistas seguem indo aos estádios e assistindo ao maior clube do mundo de perto e a @LaLiga segue sem fazer nada…— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) December 31, 2022
Seguirei de cabeça erguida e comemorando as minhas vitórias e do Madrid.
No final a culpa é MINHA. pic.twitter.com/5ztuTjP4s6
Shouldering the blame comes off as more than a tinge sarcastic. However, it would be easy to empathize with the winger if he truly felt that way. Just a few months ago, Atletico Madrid supporters sang hateful songs about him while one member of the mob proudly displayed a racist doll wearing a Real Madrid jersey. Condemnation was quick to follow, but actual action was too much to ask for. At time of writing, neither Atletico Madrid or LaLiga have followed up on the incident and the Spanish prosecutors dropped the case as “stating there was there was no specific act that a particular person could be charged with”.
The same soap opera is now playing out in Valladolid, where LaLiga is asking local prosecutors again to look into Friday’s incident. It would be surprising to see the case develop any further than the Madrid one. It is no wonder Vini feels the world is against him.
When Carlo Ancelotti said “the problem isn’t with LaLiga or with sanctions, it’s a general cultural and societal problem”, he is right. One in three people of a black or minority background in Spain reported experiencing discrimination while house hunting. One in five respondents to a 2021 educational sector survey stated they had experienced racial insults from their fellow students. Racism is ingrained in Spanish culture and the dozen of racist incident that have happened on and off the football pitch in just the last few years prove that.
However, contrary to what Ancelotti said, that is not an excuse for Real Madrid to do the bare minimum or - as they have so far - nothing at all. First and foremost because inaction is just as bad as endorsement when it comes to hatred. Second, the club’s transfer policy is actively recruiting young, foreign internationals, many of whom are black. These players are well paid for their work, but no amount of money is compensation enough for suffering racial abuse. I can’t speak for how it must make these players feel, I don’t feel comfortable speculating either.
If Real Madrid are going to ask their marquee signings to play in a racist country, then they owe said players a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racism. Detractors might point to the near decade long ban of the club’s Ultras as proof of Real are doing their bit. However, for a club that prides itself on being the world’s biggest and best, it’s hardly enough.
It is no secret that Real Madrid and Florentino Perez are influential characters in Spanish football and culture. The surety in that influence and power was plain to see when Perez attempted to launch a European Superleague. Real are fully aware of their importance when it suits them and seem happy to appear progressive for the cameras. Actions like wearing a jersey made from ocean plastic or signing the UN Global Compact, a non-binding commitment to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies are all good PR for the club. If these actions are more than just hollow promises, then Madrid must start making a statement against racism.
The club are under no obligation to continue playing when racist abuse is being hurled at the players. They don’t have to sell tickets to away fans from clubs who repeatedly fail to take action. Off the pitch, Los Blancos have an unimaginably diverse following. Name a social media platform and Real Madrid have millions of followers on it.
Not to mention the working relationship the club has with even its most bitter rivals. They make a healthy profit for participating in LaLiga, but the league gains an untold amount of value from having Real Madrid in it. Keeping such a valuable asset happy is a critical part of Javier Tebas’s job description.
Imagine the impact Real could have if they made no to racism a priority? Imagine the clubs Real could rally to the cause through its own strong networking and the fact that many players for other Spanish sides have suffered the same abuse? If Real Madrid are willing to make this an issue, then you can trust that La Liga will prioritize it to keep the peace. It won’t solve Spanish or world hatred, but it would be a step in the right direction.