Spanish Football Fans Sentenced To Prison After “Racially Abusing” Black Real Madrid Player During Match

Jack Hadfield

Three fans of the Spanish football club Valencia have been sentenced to eight months in prison for racially abusing Real Madrid’s Afro-Brazilian forward player, Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior, more popularly known as Vinicus Junior. This is the first conviction of its kind in Spanish history.

The incident stems back to May 21, 2023, during a match played at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium against Real Madrid. Racist chants and gestures, allegedly directed at Vinicius, rang out from a number of supporters of the home team.

In footage of the match, Vinicius can be seen getting visibly angry and pointing at the home crowd seated behind the goal during the game, which Real Madrid eventually lost 1-0.

The incident prompted an outpouring of support for the Brazilian forward, and led to a series of local and international campaigns, including the creation of a FIFA anti-racism committee.

Today, Real Madrid confirmed that they had pursued private prosecution of three Valencia fans for racist harassment, and that those accused had been found guilty of a “crime against moral integrity.” The crime was aggravated by “racist motivations” against the black player.

This is the first conviction for racist insults in a football stadium in Spain’s history.

In addition to receiving an eight month custodial sentence, which had been initially set at a whole year in an early stage of the trial, each of the three have also been banned from all La Liga games for two years. 

“The ruling handed down today, which is final, establishes as proven that the three defendants insulted Vinicius with shouts, gestures and chants referring to the color of his skin,” the Magistrate’s Court of Valencia said in a statement.

“These shouts and gestures of a racist nature, consisting among other things in the repetition of the sounds and imitating the movements of monkeys, caused the footballer feelings of frustration, shame and humiliation, with the consequent undermining of his intrinsic dignity.”

Real Madrid also issued a press release praising the decision.

“This ruling is great news regarding the fight against racism in Spain, as it redresses the wrong suffered by Vinicius Jr. and sends a clear message to those people who go to a football stadium to hurl abuse, La Liga will identify them, report them and there will be criminal consequences for them,” said Javier Tebas, President of La Liga.

“I understand that there may be some frustration at the length of time it takes for these sentences to be handed down, but this shows that Spain is a country that guarantees judicial integrity. As such, we at La Liga can only respect the pace of justice, but once again demand that Spanish legislation evolves so La Liga has sanctioning powers that can speed up the fight against racism,” he added.

Vinicius celebrated the ruling in a post to X, noting that “many” people asked him to simply ignore the abuse and just get on with playing football, but that he felt compelled to ensure the prosecution of those who had been racist towards him.

“As I’ve always said, I’m not a victim of racism. I am a tormentor of racists. This first criminal conviction in the history of Spain is not for me. It’s for all black people,” he posted.

“May other racists be afraid, ashamed and hide in the shadows. Otherwise, I’ll be here to collect. Thank you to La Liga and Real Madrid for helping with this historic conviction,” he concluded.

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