When we think of events that have transpired in the US over the last few years, a lot of it ends up in spotlighting the division in the country. However, things across the pond seem to be no better - at least when it comes to sports. Last week, Real Madrid - arguably the richest sports franchise in the world, had one of their Brazilian strikers subject to vicious racist attacks in Valencia. The player, Vini Jr posted this example video in his Insta account:
What was worse is the player was red carded by the referee and punished for highlighting the racial abuses. It's absolutely appalling and disheartening that we are still grappling with racism in soccer in the 21st century. The beautiful game, which unites people from different cultures, backgrounds, and races, has been marred by repeated instances of racism, particularly against Black players
The pitch should be a place where skill, talent, and dedication are all that matter. Yet, we continue to witness racist behavior from fans and, at times, even fellow players or officials. From throwing bananas onto the pitch, making monkey chants, to hurling racial slurs, the experience for many Black players is stained by bigotry and ignorance.
In 2004, during a match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal, a banana was thrown at Brazilian player Dani Alves, a clear act of racial discrimination. Alves responded by picking up the banana, peeling it, and taking a bite, continuing to play the game. Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, playing for Barcelona in 2006, was subjected to racist monkey chants from opposition fans during a game against Zaragoza. The player threatened to leave the pitch due to the abuse but was convinced by his teammates and the referee to stay.
And in Italy in 2019, Italian striker Mario Balotelli, playing for Brescia against Verona, kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to leave the pitch after hearing racist chants. The referee temporarily halted the game.
And what's more infuriating is the lack of decisive action from football's governing bodies. Yes, there have been initiatives to curb racism in soccer - campaigns, slogans, and even rules in place. But the lenient punishments and half-hearted condemnations do not do enough to deter such disgraceful behavior. A small fine or a partial stadium ban is hardly a strong message that racism has no place in football. Vini received almost no support from the club initially, although later Real launched an "official communicado" and the president of La Liga in fact blamed him from causing the fans uproar.
Brazil has suggested they could prosecute the Spanish citizens involved in the hate crimes
However, many former players and coaches wrote in support of Vini, and we can only hope change is coming
After worldwide protests, it finally seems Spain is taking some action: