Real Madrid is down 1-0 in the 73rd minute. Just outside the box, Toni Kroos is about to take a free kick. Vinicius Junior is sizing up the set piece, but he is not looking at Kroos. Instead, he is facing the crowd behind the goal, making gestures at them, and getting more and more excited by the second.
Vinicius Junior abuse timeline: Real Madrid, LaLiga, more
Jose Gaya, the captain of Valencia, and Antonio Rudiger and Eder Militao, both of Real Madrid, go to pull him away. But Vinicius keeps going. He is looking at someone in the crowd. “[He called me] a monkey,” says he.
“This person.” Pointing, again. “This person.” Now angry, he is joined by other Madrid players as they face the crowd. Lucas Vazquez yells, “Don’t do that!” “Shut up, racists. You’re racists.”
Valencia defender Cenk Ozkacar tells Vinicius to calm down. Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea, the referee, comes on the field and tells the players, “I’m activating the anti-racism protocol, OK?” Thibaut Courtois, the goalie for Madrid, tells De Burgos that he heard the same chants in the first half.
Vinicius walks over to his boss Carlo Ancelotti, who puts an arm around his shoulder, talks into his ear, and kisses him on the cheek.
Vinicius is back on the game after that. De Burgos describes what will happen next to Ancelotti, Vinicius, Militao, and others: first, an announcement over the stadium’s loudspeaker. If the fighting keeps up, the match will be stopped. Play starts again in the 78th minute.
This is not the first time this season that someone has called Vinicius racist. It’s the eighth incident of the 2022-23 campaign, and those are just the ones that have been reported and for which complaints have been made.
It happened at Camp Nou in March, and Benito Villamarin of Real Betis was there. It happened at El Sadar in Osasuna and Son Moix in Mallorca a month before. In January, some Atletico Madrid fans hung a Vinicius-shirted dummy from a bridge.
Because of what happened, four people have been charged. In December, racist words were said to Vinicius in Valladolid, and in September, they were said outside of Atletico’s Metropolitano stadium.
This time, however, things were different. The fact that Vinicius went up to the people who hurt him caused a worldwide uproar, which has led to consequences. Three fans have been taken, and they will have to go to court, where Vinicius will also testify.
Valencia was given a partial stand closure for five games, which was reduced to three after an appeal, and a long-overdue discussion about racism in Spanish football has started.
This is what has happened since that night at Mestalla and what will happen next, according to people close to Vinicius
Vinicius’s response in Valencia was the result of years of anger that football’s governing bodies, the courts, referees, the media, and even his own club had not taken the problem seriously. And he is done with it.
“My firing was the prize that the racists got!” Vinicius posted on Instagram, then used the league’s marketing motto in a funny way: “It’s not football. It’s LaLiga.”
Thibaut Courtois, a teammate and goalie, said that the team was ready to leave if that’s what Vinicius had wanted. Other players also said nice things about him. But Madrid didn’t release a comment until Monday at noon, which was almost 16 hours after the game ended.
“Real Madrid condemns what happened to our player Vinicius Junior yesterday,” the team said, adding that they had filed a report with hate crime prosecutors.
In a later statement, Madrid tried to connect what happened at Mestalla to its long-running fight against what it sees as unfair and bad refereeing. This is something that is talked about every day on the club’s own TV channel. “What happened yesterday and how the referees and VAR handled it is not an isolated case; it has been happening in a lot of our games,” it said.
At their next game on May 24 against Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabeu, the team wore Vinicius’ No. 20 shirt as a show of support. “We are all Vinicius. “Enough is enough,” said a sign the length of the field behind one of the goals. In the 20th minute, fans turned to cheer for Vinicius, who was sitting in the directors’ box with Florentino Perez. The reason he was there instead of in the player’s own box was to send a message: this is our fight, not just his.
Vinicius’s worries about his club’s hesitant support at first were nothing compared to how angry he was with LaLiga, which he saw in the form of the league’s head, Javier Tebas.