Four people have been arrested for allegedly hanging an effigy of Real Madrid forward Vinícius Jr. off a bridge in January, Spanish police said Tuesday.
The incident occurred in the Spanish capital near Real’s training center ahead of the team’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Atlético Madrid on January 26.
In videos which were widely viewed on social media, the effigy – which was dressed in a Real Madrid shirt with Vinícius’ name and No. 20 on the back – was shown hanging along with a banner which read: “Madrid hates Real.”
Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Vinícius Jr.: Real Madrid player persistently racially abused during Spanish La Liga match
“Three of those arrested are active members of a radical fan group of a football club from Madrid,” the police statement read.
“The investigation carried out by police through evidence gathered, witnesses and open-source digital research, among other things, led to the identification of the four men suspected of the crime.”
The police statement added that the three fans belonging to an ultra group had previously been identified at matches classified as “high risk” in the police’s attempts to clamp down on violence in sport.
Vinícius has been subjected to racist abuse from the stands on numerous occasions during La Liga matches over the past two seasons, most recently against Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Spanish national police in Valencia told CNN on Monday that they identified one person in the stadium who was involved in alleged racist chanting, but so far no arrests have been made, while the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office said that it has opened an investigation into the incident for a potential hate crime.
Vinícius points to the fans who were abusing him from the stands.
Spain has racism problem, football chief says
The head of Spain’s football federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, admitted on Monday that there is a racism problem in the country.
“We have a problem,” Rubiales told a media conference. “The first thing is to recognize that we have a problem in our country of behavior, education, racism.
Vinícius Jr. is being racially abused during LaLiga matches. Why is nobody being punished?
“While there is just one fan, one undesirable, a group of undesirables, who insults due to sexuality, skin color or creed, then we have a serious problem. A serious problem that also stains a whole team, a whole fan base, a whole club, a whole country – and we are a welcoming country.
“Vinícius Junior and any footballer, woman or man, who suffers an insult, any violent act, has my support and that of the entire RFEF because we are here to help and ask them to help us improve,” he added.
Rubiales also criticized LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who got involved in a back-and-forth with Vinícius on Twitter after Sunday’s match.
Vinícius has been racially abused a number of times over the past two seasons.
Tebas tweeted Vinícius Jr. telling him to “inform” himself on LaLiga’s jurisdictions and role in racism cases and chiding him for twice not meeting with him to discuss the matter.
When Vinícius replied: “I am not your friend to talk with about racism. I want actions and punishments. Hashtags don’t move me,” Tebas again took to Twitter in an attempt to defend himself and LaLiga’s actions in the fight against racism.
Rubiales urged Vinícius Jr to ignore Tebas’ “irresponsible behavior.”
“I want to also ask him [Vini] to please ignore the irresponsible behavior of the President of LaLiga, who on social media engaged with a footballer who, hours earlier had received several racist insults of tremendous severity,” Rubiales said.
“Directors are not here to get involved in engagements on social media, we’re here to try and solve problems – and this footballer was attacked very seriously.
“It was not the time [to jump on social media],” he added.
Al Goodman contributed to this report.