A LaLiga TV commentator has sparked outrage online by claiming Vinicius Jr “is not an angel” and that he “provokes other teams” after the Real Madrid star was sent off for his reaction to being the victim of racist abuse from the stands during a 1-0 defeat to Valencia on Sunday.
The match had been halted for 10 minutes in the second half as Vincius pointed out to the referee which fans had racially abused him. The Brazilian was later red-carded in injury time after becoming involved in a brawl with Valencia players that saw him raise his hands to the face of Hugo Duro, although he also appeared to be put in a headlock by the Valencia forward.
Vinicius has been consistently subjected to racist abuse this season. Before Sunday’s match, LaLiga have filed as many as eight instances of “racist behaviour” against the forward to the Spanish courts this season, including against Real Madrid’s rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. However, punishments for offending clubs have been minimal.
Covering the game for LaLiga TV, co-commentator Toni Padilla said that while it’s important to stand against racism, Vinicius should not be free from blame for the sending off as he’s “not a saint” and often provokes both the opposition and their fans.
“It’s the worst that could happen,” said Padilla as Vinicius was shown red. “Because the player that hits out and you say ‘that’s a red card always’ is also the player that suffered some verbal abuse.
“We should stand with Vini Jr if he suffered racial abuse but it’s never justified that he hits Hugo Duro. It’s Vini’s mistake. It’s not a question of who’s the bad one. Look at Vini Jr [as he walks off the pitch gesturing to the Valencia fans] - you are going to second division.
“We should stand against racism always but we should also say that Vini Jr is not an angel, he’s not perfect. Sometimes he provokes the other teams. Every time he’s suffering verbal abuse, we should stand against racism and we should stand with Vini Jr. But also we cannot say he’s a saint.
“He’s always committing a lot of mistakes and we saw it within five minutes. It’s a really complicated moment and it’s been going on all season, situations like this one. It explodes today here in the stadium.”
The Independent have contacted LaLiga TV for a response.
Padilla’s comments have subsequently sparked outrage online, with journalist Colin Millar tweeting: “Sorry, this is absolutely shocking stuff. Victims of racial abuse are victims of racial abuse. There is no further context required.”
Another commenter wrote on Twitter: “Commentators all wrong on this, Vinicius completely the victim. He’s being driven out of Spanish football.” A further comment read: “Your co-commentator STINKS. Imagine trying to justify and make a point about Vinicius being in the wrong.
After the game, Vinicius angrily posted to social media, slamming the racists and LaLiga’s lack of action in sorting the problem, saying “the championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi today belongs to racists”.
“It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third,” Vinicius added. “Racism is normal in La Liga. The competition thinks it’s normal, the Federation does too and the opponents encourage it.
“Today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists. And unfortunately, for everything that happens each week, I have no defence. But I am strong and I will go to the end against racists.”
In a statement, LaLiga said it will open an investigation into Sunday’s incident at Valencia and will take legal action if “any hate crime is detected”.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti also unequivocally backed his player and said LaLiga “has a problem” after revealing he wanted the referee to stop the match following the racist abuse.
“I don’t want to talk about football today, there is no meaning in talking about football today,” Ancelotti explained. “What we saw today is unacceptable. An entire stadium chanting racist slurs.
“I asked him if he wanted to keep playing, and he stayed in the game.
“LaLiga have a problem here. For me Vinicius is the most important player in the world. LaLiga has a problem, these episodes of racism have to stop the match.”
Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand have been among those to speak out about the incident. Match of the Day presenter Lineker commented on the unfairness of the situation, saying: “Once again, the player being abused is the only person to be punished.”
Meanwhile, ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “How many times do we need to see this young man subjected to this s***? Bro you need protecting... who is protecting Vinicius Junior in Spain??”
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