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Spain: Football fans sentenced for Vinicius racist abuse

June 10, 2024

Three Spanish football fans have been handed jail sentences after racially abusing Real Madrid and Brazil striker Vinicius Junior. It's the first ever racism-related conviction in Spanish professional football.

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates scoring a goal
Three Spanish football fans have been handed jail sentences after racially abusing Real Madrid striker Vinicius Junior.Image: Violeta Santos Moura/REUTERS

A court in the Spanish city of Valencia has sentenced three football fans to eight months in prison for racially abusing Real Madrid and Brazil star striker Vinicius Junior.

The trio, whose names have not been made public, were found guilty of a crime against moral integrity with the aggravating circumstance of discrimination based on racist motives.

"This first criminal conviction in Spanish history is not for me. It's for all Black people," Junior wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"But, as I've always said, I'm not a victim of racism. I'm a destroyer of racists. Let the other racists be afraid, ashamed and hide in the shadows. Otherwise, I'll be here to collect the debt," he wrote in Portuguese.

As is common with jail sentences under two years in Spain, the sentences are suspended. The three men have also been banned from Spanish football stadiums for two years and were ordered to pay all legal costs.

The sentence marks the first ever racism-related conviction in professional football in Spain after several similar cases had been shelved in the past.

Why were the 3 fans charged?

During a Spanish league game between Valencia and Real Madrid at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium on May 21, 2023, the three men were found to have shouted racist insults at Vinicius and made racist "monkey" gestures in the direction of the 23-year-old.

The men were detained , but the incident caused the match to be briefly halted and later caused uproar in Spain and an outpouring of sympathy for Vinicius.

Many saw it as a turning point in the fight against racism in Spanish football, although Vinicius continued to be subjected to racist abuse several months afterwards, with some commentators and pundits even suggesting that Vinicius' own behavior on the pitch was to blame.

In handing down the sentence, the court said that the men's shouts and gestures had caused Vinicius to suffer "feelings of frustration, shame and humiliation which undermined his dignity."

The defendants all pleaded guilty, demonstrated regret and accepted their legal culpability.

In a letter of apology to Vinicius, Real Madrid and anybody else who felt insulted by their actions, they also appealed to fellow fans to kick racism and intolerance out of the game.

mf/wmr (dpa, AP)