Spanish prosecutors have opened a probe into racist chants aimed at Real Madrid's star forward Vinicius Junior during the La Liga match at Valencia on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Brazilian international forward was targeted by home supporters during the 1-0 defeat at the Mestalla Stadium and was later sent off.
A judicial source has told AFP that the prosecutor's office in Valencia is now investigating the incident as a possible “hate crime”.
The move comes after Real Madrid said it had filed a complaint with the office “in order for the facts to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable”.
During the match on Sunday, Vinicius stood in front of fans behind the goal and pointed to the apparent culprit and play was delayed for several minutes in the second half.
Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea spoke to stadium officials, who made an announcement calling for racist insults to stop before play resumed 10 minutes later. The referee wrote in his post-match report that a fan shouted “monkey, monkey” at the player.
Vinicius was sent-off in added time at the end of the game for hitting Valencia player Hugo Duro during a brawl, while the player would later say on social media that La Liga “now belongs to racists” after the latest incident.
That provoked a response from La Liga president Javier Tebas, who wrote on Twitter that it is doing enough and that Vinicius should inform himself “before you criticise and slander La Liga”.
Valencia has said it banned one of its fans for life and was looking to identify others who may have abused the player.
“From the moment that the unfortunate events occurred, the club has analysed all the available footage, working alongside the authorities as rapidly as possible to clarify what happened in order to be able to act quickly and forcefully,” Valencia said in a statement, adding it is working with police to identify more culprits.
Luis Rubiales, the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, acknowledged that the country has a racism problem.
“We have a problem of behaviour, of education, of racism,” Rubiales said Monday. “And as long as there is one fan or one group of fans making insults based on someone’s sexual orientation or skin colour or belief, then we have a serious problem.
“A serious problem that stains an entire team, an entire fan base and an entire country.”
Top figures from the world of football and beyond rallied around the player, who has frequently been singled out for racial abuse in La Liga.
Barcelona manager Xavi said there is a need to educate and punish people, and called for harsher action by officials in cases of racism during matches.
“Yes, matches should be stopped,” Xavi said. “It is the only profession in which insults are accepted. I don’t see any baker or teacher being insulted at work. All this has to be stopped. Try insulting a building worker. I’m sure a brick will fall on your head.
“I don’t have to put up with insults and impudence in my working hours. I take this opportunity to say it. Enough is enough.
“It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear. Vinicius is a person before he is a footballer. We have to defend the football professional. I don’t understand as a person, as a citizen, that you have to put up with insults”.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has also said Spanish football needed to be prepared to halt matches.
“The Spanish league has a problem, and Vinicius is not the problem. Vinicius is the victim,” said the Italian. “What has happened today has happened before, but not like that, it's unacceptable.”