Usually, this column answers three questions that we had pre-game and throws up three new post-match questions. But, after Real Madrid’s trip to face Valencia on Sunday, there’s not much football worth talking about. After Vinícius suffered racist abuse during the match, at which point he identified the culprit, things got more and more tense, eventually ending in a late red card for the Brazilian. So, let’s just answer three questions about those incidents and leave the football to one side for today.
1. Should the match have been suspended?
Incredibly, this all started from one of the most bizarre incidents ever seen in a top-level football game. With an extra ball having been thrown on to the pitch and with Vinícius dribbling into the box, Eray Cömert pulled off a snooker move and kicked the other ball at the one in play in the 69th minute. When play stopped while the referee worked out what had just happened, Vinícius suffered racist abuse from someone in the stands, someone he was directly able to identify. After Vini pointed out the culprit, referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea went over to the sidelines to speak with the delegates, the coaches and with Vinícius. Should the match have been suspended right there and then? According to the racism protocol, there first needs to be a warning to stop racist abuse and the fans are told that if it continues then the game will be suspended. But, Ancelotti was clear in his post-match quotes in stating that he felt the game should have been suspended right away. He said: “The only solution, for me, is to stop the game. It’s bad that I even had to think about substituting off a player because the atmosphere was racist. I should be taking players off if they don’t play well or for rest, but never because they were the subject of racist abuse.”
2. Why was Vinícius the only one sent off?
With the game continuing and with Vinícius deciding to keep playing, you had the feeling that something quite bad could happen. And, sure enough, the tension of the situation sparked a major brawl in the final minutes of the 90. At the end of it, Vinícius smacked Hugo Duro in the face and De Burgos Bengoetxea was called over to the VAR screen and sent Vinícius off. Was the red card the right decision? Yes, by the laws of football he deserved that red card. Was Vinícius the only player who deserved to be sent off? Absolutely not. At the very least, Hugo Duro should have been dismissed too for choking Vinícius in the first place, while other members of the brawl could have been scrutinised too by VAR. Incredibly, though, the VAR room only appeared to show De Burgos Bengoetxea the images of Vini’s retaliation. Had the on-pitch ref been shown the full brawl, he’d surely have had to send off more than just the player who’d been racially abused moments previously.
3. What will the punishments for the racists be?
The big question coming out of this is: what can be done to stop this from happening again? Vinícius has called on LaLiga and the RFEF (the Spanish federation) to act, so what can and will each organisation do? In terms of suspending a match or partial or entire stadium bans, this is the responsibility of the RFEF and isn’t something that has been considered so far. In the referee’s report from this game, which goes to the RFEF, the racist insults were included, so the RFEF could act. We’ll soon find out if they do. As for LaLiga, they don’t have the legal jurisdiction to hand out any punishments, but LaLiga has filed reports on nine racist incidents against Vinícius to the Spanish courts over the past two seasons and they’ll do so again if and when video evidence from the broadcast is found. The problem is that these matters then pass to the Spanish judicial system and prosecutions are rare, although they do sometimes happen and can bring fines, community service and stadium bans for the individuals involved. For example, a fan who abused Vini in Mallorca was fined 4,000 euros and banned from all sporting venues for 12 months. Whether that happens here, we’ll have to wait and see. The one suspension we do know about for sure at this stage is that of Vinícius, who’ll miss at least one match, the home game vs Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.