Vinicius Jr at Real Madrid (Twitter)
Valencia will close the south stand of their Mestalla stadium for three home matches instead of the five-game ban
Valencia’s punishment for their fans’ racist abuse of Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior was reduced on Friday after the La Liga side appealed against it.
The Spanish side must close the south stand of their Mestalla stadium for three home matches instead of the five-game ban initially set by the Spanish football federation’s Competition Committee on Wednesday.
The fine was also reduced from 45,000 euros to 27,000 euros ($29,000) by the federation’s appeal committee.
Valencia host Espanyol on Sunday in La Liga in a vital match with both teams battling relegation, in which the stand will be closed.
Three Valencia fans were arrested after the 22-year-old Brazilian winger was abused last Sunday during Los Che’s 1-0 win over Madrid.
Sports stars and other personalities across the globe have offered Vinicius their support in the days since, including many in his homeland Brazil.
Vinícius Jr’s have unleashed a heated debate in Spain about tolerance for racism in a society that is becoming rapidly more diverse on and off the field.
Since the season began in August, the Real Madrid winger has suffered racist abuse by fans of at least five rival teams, including the hanging of an effigy depicting the Black player from a bridge by a group of Atletico Madrid fans in January.
“Racism is normal in LaLiga,” Vinícius said of the top league in Spanish soccer on Instagram and Twitter after he was targeted with monkey chants from Valencia fans at a game on Sunday. “The competition thinks it’s normal, as does the federation, and the opponents encourage it.”
Through his social media presence, Vinícius has repeatedly called out racist attitudes that he says prevail in a southern European country 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 racially diverse.
With Valencia’s cooperation, police arrested three people on suspicion of a hate crime for their allege abuse against the Brazilian on Sunday, with all being banned for life from the stadium. The the club said that was the maximum punishment it could impose.
“To punish fans who were not involved in these lamentable incidents is a measure completely disproportionate, unfair and unprecedented,” Valencia said. “We will fight against it until the end.”
The three people spoke to police and were set free as the investigation against them continues. Four other people were detained in Madrid after being accused of hanging an effigy of Vinícius off a highway bridge in January. They are expected to testify before a judge who will then decide on whether to take the case any further.
Fans have been fined and banned before for attacks on Vinícius, but so far no one in Spain has ever gone to trial on criminal charges for racially abusing a player.
Spain created a specific law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sports in 2007, and since then an anti-violence commission composed of several entities has been in charge of monitoring and denouncing cases that may break the law.
But the law stipulates that not all cases of racism can be punished criminally, only those in which there is an extra element affecting the victim. Most cases, including many similar to the ones involving the fans in Valencia, end up falling into a category in which punishment only includes fines and bans from stadiums.
(With inputs from Agencies)