The Competition Committee of the Spanish Football Federation decided, after meeting on Tuesday, to penalize Valencia by closing the Kempes stands in Mestalla for five games, the one from which the racist insults were uttered against the Real Madrid player Vinicius Júnior during the match between the two teams on Sunday; Objects were also thrown onto the field, according to the agency’s resolution. The punishment, to which a 45,000-euro fine is added, is the toughest a club has received for racist behavior by its fans. In addition, Competition annulled the expulsion of the Brazilian player after his brawl with the Valencian player Hugo Duro. Vinicius had seen the red card for a slap to his rival when he tried to move him away from the conflict by grabbing him by the neck. The allegations of Real Madrid based on the fact that the expulsion was ordered with VAR images that did not include the entire sequence have borne fruit.
The fact that the referee of the match, Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea, reflected in the annex to the minutes the insults of a fan who called Vinicius a “monkey” has been decisive for the disciplinary body of the Federation to have acted so quickly.
The resolution states that “Vinicius pointed to one or more spectators in the Mario Kempes stands indicating: ‘He called me a monkey’ and making gestures with his hands emulating a monkey”. And he continues: “While said incident occurs, different songs are chanted. Among them is the following: ‘Madridistas, sons of bitches’. In addition, a spectator yelled the following: ‘Fucking black you’re an idiot’, ‘I shit on your dead, son of a bitch’, ‘Vinicius, idiot’, ‘Fucking black son of a bitch’, ‘Vinicius, dog (… .) son of a bitch’, ‘monkey, you’re a fucking monkey”. The letter also states that later another chant was produced emulating the sound of a monkey: “Uh, uh, uh”; and that after the expulsion of the Real Madrid player in the 90th minute, a general chant was uttered by the entire stands of “Monkey, monkey” which changed to “Silly, silly”.
Since Sunday night, the events that occurred in Mestalla, for which three young people in Valencia were arrested on Tuesday, had crossed national borders. The international community had set its eyes on Spanish football and its disciplinary committees. The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, denounced and demanded strong sanctions during the G-7 summit in Hiroshima. “I think it is important that FIFA, the Spanish League and the leagues of other countries take serious measures, because we cannot allow fascism and racism to dominate inside soccer stadiums,” warned the president. A light sanction would have triggered a barrage of criticism and would have reinforced Vinicius’s message in which he assured that “in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.” The pressure on the Competition Committee to act energetically was maximum.
Until now, the laxity in the sanctions of the sports disciplinary bodies against racist acts in Spanish football has been the predominant factor. In fact, of the nine complaints filed so far by LaLiga for racist insults against Vinicius, only two ended in sanctions against two fans, whom he temporarily withdrew from his stadium. Before this, some of the cases that had the most media coverage were only punished with economic sanctions. In 2006, during a Zaragoza-Barcelona game, the Catalan player Samuel Eto’o tried to leave La Romareda because of the racist and xenophobic insults that were hurled at him from a stand in the stands. The Competition Committee of the Spanish Football Federation decided to penalize Zaragoza with a fine of 9,000 euros. At that time, it was the largest financial sanction imposed on a club for racist shouting since the amount for this type of incident was increased just a few months before. The sanction exceeded the 6,000 euros that were provided for in the federative statutes for racist or xenophobic behavior, as the Aragonese club was a repeat offender. As mitigation, the federative disciplinary body took into account that the referee, Esquinas Torres, stopped the game in order to go to the Zaragoza field delegate to ask him to communicate over the public address system to stop the screams that imitated the sound of monkeys when Eto ‘or was about to take a corner. Years later, Esquinas Torres confessed that he regretted not having suspended the game, something that has been repeated since the Vinicius incident happened at Mestalla.
In 2014, Villarreal was sanctioned with 12,000 euros for the throwing of a banana at Dani Alves by a yellow fan when the Barcelona defender, who took a portion of the fruit and ate it, was about to take a corner. The author, who worked as a delegate for one of Villarreal’s youth teams, was fired by the club, which banned him from entering the stadium for life.
The Competition Committee only penalizes when the referee records racist, xenophobic or violent behavior that may have occurred during a match, whether committed by fans or players. He never usually enters office. “It is not entered ex officio for not falling into comparative grievances. A case like Vinicius’s has a media and public impact that does not occur in matches of lower categories that nobody finds out about. This may lead to the question of why one case is entered ex officio and not another”, defends a former member of Competition.
Be that as it may, Vinicius has lit the fuse in the fight against racism. On Tuesday, almost at the time the Competition decision was made known, the Barcelona player Raphinha displayed a message in support of the Madrid player on an undershirt: “As long as the color of the skin is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war”, he had written. It is the same text that his Brazilian colleague has tattooed. “We are together, Vini,” he finished.
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