The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has granted a battery of interviews this Wednesday to Brazilian and international sports media in which he assures that “LaLiga is not racist” and has apologized for the reproachful public message he sent to Vinicius Júnior immediately after the game in which the Brazilian received racist insults and, when he protested, was sent off the field. “I think that an important part (of the people), especially in Brazil, did not understand the message and the intention that he had. I didn’t want to attack Vinicius, but if the majority of people understood it that way, I must apologize. It was not my intention. I expressed myself badly, at a bad time… But I had no intention of attacking Vinicius”, the Spaniard declared to the ESPN channel in Brazil in an operation that seems destined to contain damage.
On Sunday night, Tebas released a tweet in which he attacked the player and accused him of “insulting the League” for complaining about suffering racist harassment in stadiums and the passivity of the sports authorities in the face of those insults. “Before criticizing and insulting LaLiga, it is necessary that you inform yourself properly Vinicius. Do not let yourself be manipulated and make sure you fully understand each other’s powers and the work we have been doing together”, a message started from Thebes in which he accused the player of not having attended two meetings so that the competition could explain what it is in These are the distribution of powers between LaLiga, the federation and other authorities.
Thebes’s words were like adding salt to the wound caused by the umpteenth episode in which Vinicius had to listen to racist insults like a monkey. The reaction in Brazil was immediate. The popular indignation that the victim was treated as the cause, as a provocateur, was joined by a government offensive, led by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Five ministries jointly appealed to the sports and political authorities to locate and punish those responsible.
72 hours after the outbreak of the crisis, the head of the Spanish competition has defended in successive interviews the work carried out by his team to banish racism from soccer fields. “When I assumed the presidency of LaLiga, in 2013, there were racist, homophobic chants and other insults against Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos… We started a fight and we won. There are no more chants in most stadiums. And now, since 2020, we are denouncing everything to the Prosecutor’s Office.
But the executive also acknowledges that the complaints have not gone far, that the Prosecutor’s Office has filed some, that others are slow. “That is why we are changing the strategy and going directly to the courts of [crímenes de odio]. Justice takes time, and Vinicius is right to complain about it. I want justice to resolve quickly. But the truth is that the Competitions Committee of the Spanish Federation could also have acted faster, as happened yesterday”, referring to the arrest on Tuesday of three Valencia supporters and four Atlético fans suspected of having placed in January a doll that simulated the hanging of Vinicius Júnior.
At the Brazilian’s suggestion that he consider looking for another league if the harassment does not stop, Tebas assures that he will take care of protecting him so that he remains in Spain. “We love him so much that we will continue to defend, denounce and imprison anyone who offends Vinicius. As we already did with those who insulted Iñaki Williams. We are already doing it. We cannot tolerate (attacks) any player and that will be the case with Vinicius. We will not stop until we are done with all of them (racists), be it one or 100.”
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