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Vincius Junior soccer racism controversy sparks contentious off-field discussion in Spain

(AP) MADRID — A contentious discussion about racism tolerance in a culture that is quickly diversifying both on and off the field has erupted in Spain as a result of repeated racist taunts directed towards Brazilian soccer player Vincius Jnior.

The Real Madrid winger has experienced racist taunts from supporters of at least five rival teams since the start of the current campaign, including the hanging of an effigy of the Black player from a bridge by a group of Atletico Madrid supporters in January.

After being subjected to monkey chants from Valencia supporters at a game on Sunday, Vincius claimed on Instagram and Twitter that racism is common in LaLiga. The opposition supports it, the competition does as well, and the federation agrees.

In a country in southern Europe where a third of children are now born to foreign parents, the majority from Latin America and Africa, and society as a whole is becoming more ethnically diverse, Vincius has regularly denounced racist ideas through his social media presence.

Politicians divided along ideological lines as they jumped on the controversy quickly. “Zero tolerance for racism in soccer,” wrote Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Twitter. “Neither our soccer nor our society should tolerate hatred or xenophobia.”

Before the Sunday municipal elections, Isabel Daz Ayuso, the president of the Madrid area, responded that Spain “is not a racist country,” adding that anyone who suggested otherwise was “lying.” She has become a lightning rod for issues relating to the culture war.

However, the larger Black community in Spain has long complained about racism in a country where major nonwhite communities have existed since the 1990s and where they believe neither conservative nor leftist governments have done anything to address the issue. The last year for which government data were available, 2021, saw a 31% increase in reports of racist hate crimes, and racism is the most prevalent type of hate crime reported in Spain.

Spanish Equality Ministry official Rita Bosaho, who is in charge of overseeing racial laws, pleaded with the government to enact a long-delayed anti-racism law “so that no young person has to go through this again,” in reference to the abuse Vincius experienced.

Despite being born in Spain, Black novelist and anti-racism activist Moha Gerehou has talked about his encounters with police harassment and being routinely asked where he is from. He claimed that racism in Spain was so commonplace as to be unnoticeable.

“Vincius Jr. does well to use a louder voice to state the obvious—Spain is a racist nation, and soccer pitches are no exception—without using any euphemisms. He tweeted, “They are the standard.

In the past, Gerehou has claimed that Spaniards find it difficult to comprehend how racism may involve denying someone access to a bar because of their skin tone. The issue, according to him, is that a lot of people refuse to acknowledge the racism that exists in Spain.

A writer from Cuba who came to Spain 16 months ago, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, has documented the everyday incidents of racism he has encountered—182 to date, including being followed in supermarkets, having his ID checked on public transit, and witnessing Spaniards complement his son’s lighter skin.

When Jiménez Enoa saw a close-up of Vincius, he commented, “I really identified with that. You can see him suffering from what he is hearing.” I’ve never been in a football stadium when thousands of people are yelling “monkey!” but in everyday life, I have occasionally shed a few tears out of irritation and fury.

Jiménez Enoa stated that despite racism being a problem in his native Cuba, he had “never suffered such explicit racism in the streets, in shops, in the market, wherever” as he had in Spain.

I never experienced the effects of how my skin tone affects my daily life, he claimed.

Vincius has found himself the target of criticism from various Spanish soccer officials, far from their support. Following the incident on Sunday, LaLiga President Javier Tebas attacked the player for criticizing the league, claiming Vinicius failed to show up for discussions on racism that he had personally asked.

Vincius responded, “The league president appears on social media to attack me instead of condemning bigots. “I’m not your friend; I’m not here to discuss racism with you. I want consequences and sanctions.

However, others in Spanish soccer admitted the widespread abuse, with Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Soccer Federation, denouncing “a problem of behavior, of education, of racism.”

Authorities have been reluctant to take action against supporters who jeer at and assault Black players. Four months after the effigy incident, four persons were only detained on Tuesday. Police declined to comment on whether the timing was related to the public outrage of the most recent abuse of Vincius. For the racist assault on Sunday, three other fans were also apprehended in Valencia.

In a tweet in support of Vinicius, Spanish footballer Iaki Williams, a Black forward for the Basque team Athletic Bilbao, wrote: “Racism is inadmissible in any circumstance.”

Williams was subjected to similar taunts during a 2020 game, which resulted in the first-ever racist abuse fan criminal trial in the history of the Spanish game, which is anticipated to take place later this year.

Even youth leagues are not exempt.

A 49-year-old man was detained by Barcelona police in March after he insulted a Black child while watching a game from the stands. Separately, in the Catalan town of Sant Vicenç de Castellet in September, a 12-year-old Black child was the target of racist teasing. No police action was taken in that situation.