Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr return to Valencia after racist abuse

 
Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga players of Real Madrid in training at Valdebebas training ground on February 28, 2024 in Madrid, Spain.

Real Madrid head to Valencia on Saturday looking to strengthen their already solid grip atop the LaLiga table in the highly anticipated return of Carlo Ancelotti’s side to a stadium where Brazil winger Vinicius Jr was racially abused last year.

It will be the first time Real and 23-year-old Vinicius have been back to Mestalla since May 2023, when racist slurs were allegedly hurled at the Brazilian, the 10th such episode against the player that LaLiga reported to prosecutors last season. 

The game was halted for 10 minutes as Vinicius pointed out fans who were abusing him before he was involved in an altercation with Valencia players that led to him being sent off.

The infamous events led to an outpouring of support for the Brazilian and galvanised a series of local and international campaigns, including the creation of a special FIFA anti-racism committee made up of players who will recommend stricter punishments for discriminatory behaviour in football.

Brazil will play a friendly against Spain at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium on March 26 in support of Vinicius Jr and the battle to eradicate racism.

Valencia’s south stand was partially closed for five matches and the club was fined 45,000 euros ($48,726.00) by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). Valencia banned four individuals for life for their part in the incident, although the club have reiterated that the action of a minority is not representative of their fanbase as a whole.

But tensions rose again this week after Valencia rejected requests from Netflix, who are filming a documentary about Vinicius’ life, to enter Mestalla on Saturday or interview their players.

Anticipating a high voltage atmosphere in Valencia, Spain’s Standing Committee of the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport declared it a ‘high-risk match’, which means the police and the club’s private security will be reinforced inside and outside the stadium.

In addition, a large demonstration against Valencia’s owner Peter Lim will take place in the afternoon, which may further complicate the security situation. “I’m looking forward to Saturday so that Vini can see that those idiots do not represent our fans,” Valencia striker Hugo Duro told Spanish Gol TV on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a hostile environment for him but at a football level with all the respect in the world. He will feel the pressure of our fans, but with respect.” Real Madrid have 65 points, six ahead of second-placed Girona, who play at Mallorca on Sunday when Barcelona, who are third on 57 points, visit Athletic Bilbao.

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