Vinicius Junior claims La Liga 'now belongs to racists' after abuse from Valencia fans

Real Madrid striker again the target of opposition supporters before being sent off in 1-0 defeat at the Mestalla

Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior reacts to being insulted pointing at the stands during the Spanish league football match between Valencia CF and Real Madrid CF at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on May 21, 2023.  (Photo by JOSE JORDAN  /  AFP)
Powered by automated translation

Vinicius Junior said La Liga “now belongs to racists” after the Real Madrid striker was again the target of opposition supporters during Sunday's match against Valencia.

The match, which Valencia won 1-0 to boost their survival hopes, had to be temporarily stopped after the Brazil forward said he was insulted by a fan behind one of the goals at the Mestalla.

“It wasn't the first time, or the second or the third. Racism is normal in La Liga. The competition thinks it's normal, as does the federation, and the opponents encourage it," Vinicius said on social media.

"The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi now belongs to racists ... But I'm strong and I will fight until the end against the racists. Even if far from here.”

Vinicius, 22, has been a target of racist abuse throughout the 2022/23 season and even had an effigy of him hanging from a bridge before January's match against city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said after the match he had considered replacing the star forward after Vinicius said fans at Mestalla chanted “monkey” toward him. He said Vinicius initially didn't want to continue playing.

“What happened today shouldn’t happen," Ancelotti said. “When a stadium yells ‘monkey’ to a player, and the coach considers taking him out of the field because of that, it means that there is something bad in this league."

The veteran coach refused to talk about the game after what happened, saying his team's loss meant nothing.

“The game should have been stopped,” Ancelotti said. “This shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t only one person, as it has happened in several stadiums. Here, it was a stadium racially insulting a player, the game had to stop. I would have said the same thing if it was 3-0 for us. You have to stop the game, there was no way around it.”

Ancelotti said he asked the referee to stop the match, but was told that the protocol was to first make an announcement to fans, then take other action if the problem continued.

Ancelotti said Vinicius didn’t want to keep playing but he told the player that he wasn’t guilty of anything and that he was the victim. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said he would have left the field with Vinicius if his teammate had decided to stop playing.

“Vinicius is upset, obviously, but more than upset, he is sad,” Ancelotti said.

Valencia identified two fans who allegedly insulted Vinicius behind one of the goals, according to Spanish media. Some comments on social media claimed fans were saying the Spanish word “tonto” [silly] instead of “mono” [monkey].

Valencia later said it expected Ancelotti to apologise to Valencia fans for accusing them of racism after misunderstanding what was said. The coach told a news conference that the referee wouldn't have started the racism protocol if he didn't think there was racism in the stadium.

Vinicius was later sent off after an altercation with Valencia players, and gestured to home fans about their team’s fight against relegation as he left the field. Valencia took a huge step toward avoiding the drop with the 1-0 victory, opening a five-point gap to the bottom three teams entering the final three rounds.

“The reward for the racists was my ejection!” Vinicius said on Instagram, along with the Spanish league's slogan “It's not soccer, it's La Liga.”

Vinicius had called the referee around the 70th minute and started pointing to a person sitting among the Valencia supporters. The player went near the stands and confronted the fans while players from both teams tried to restore calm.

Police eventually arrived in the stands to deal with the supporters. An announcement was made asking fans to behave.

The match at Mestalla was stopped for about seven minutes, and not long after it resumed Vinicius clashed with Valencia players and was sent off for pushing one of his opponents away with a hand to his face.

After the decision of his ejection was made following a video review, Vinicius started applauding ironically. As he was leaving the field, he made a “going down” gesture over relegation. That upset players on the Valencia bench and some charged toward Vinicius as he left the field, causing the game to be temporarily stopped again.

Valencia coach Ruben Baraja condemned the behaviour of Valencia fans but also criticised Vinicius, saying he should have respected the club and its supporters.

The Spanish league said it has requested images from the game to investigate what happened. It will also probe possible insults against Vinicius outside Mestalla, when a large group of fans also allegedly called the player a monkey as the Madrid bus arrived.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 6:03 AM