Vinicius drew global support after making a stand against racist abuse he received from Valencia supporters at their Mestalla stadium
Madrid (AFP) - Vinicius Junior’s Real Madrid team-mates showed him support after he was racially abused by wearing his number 20 shirt before their La Liga match against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Brazilian winger was present at the Santiago Bernabeu although not part of the squad for the game because of a knee problem, and his colleagues applauded him as he watched from the side of the pitch.
Vinicius faced off with a supporter at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium on Sunday after being abused during the match, and was later sent off for hitting Hugo Duro.
However the Spanish football federation’s Competition Committee revoked his red card late Tuesday because some images from the VAR video were not shown to the referee who sent him off.
Valencia had the south stand of Mestalla shut for five matches as punishment for the racist abuse, which they said they will appeal against.
A banner in one stand read “We are all Vinicius, enough already!” while players held up another message reading “Racists, out of football”, as part of a joint campaign from the federation and La Liga.
After 20 minutes supporters around the stadium chanted “Vini, Vini” and applauded, with Vinicius standing up and applauding them back, returning their support with a thumbs up.
The Brazilian winger watched the game from Madrid’s presidential box, alongside chief Florentino Perez.
Vinicius may return to action for Madrid on Saturday when Los Blancos visit Europa League finalists Sevilla.
- Condemnation -
Sports personalities and government figures across the world continued to show their support to Vinicius.
The United States condemned the racists chants made against Vinicius, labelling them “horrific”.
“I saw the chants directed at Vinicius Junior. They were obviously horrific,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“I know that Spanish authorities, I believe, have taken action against them,” he said.
“We condemn racism around the world wherever it takes place, including in sports, and applaud any efforts to ferret it out and fight against it.”
Three youths were arrested over the episode in Valencia and four men were arrested in Madrid both on Tuesday after an effigy of Vinicius was hung from a bridge in January.
Earlier on the United Nations rights chief criticised the attacks on the Brazilian star.
“We are calling on all those organised sport events everywhere in the world to counter and combat and prevent racism,” Volker Turk told reporters in Geneva.
England national team manager Gareth Southgate said he thought the incident might finally force change.
“It’s a disgusting situation, I think it’s so bad that actually it is going to force change,” the coach told a news conference.
“It has taken a central story, not only in Europe but around the world, and it will force change.
“It is another example of what we are dealing with and another example of people burying their heads in the sand.”
La Liga president Javier Tebas apologised after he appeared to criticise Vinicius on Twitter on Sunday.
Vinicius had said La Liga “belongs to racists” and criticised the top flight for a lack of action after being racially abused several times over the past two seasons.
“I didn’t mean to attack Vinicius, but if people understood it that way I have to apologise,” Tebas told ESPN Brasil.
“That was not my intention, far from it. I was trying to clarify that Vinicius just one month ago made a video supporting the actions of La Liga (against racism).”