Valencia fans get jail sentence for racist abuse of Madrid star Vinicius

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after winning the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after winning the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.
Image: Reuters/Lee Smith/File Photo

Three Valencia football fans were sentenced to eight months in prison on Monday for hate crimes against Real Madrid player Vinicius Junior, the first conviction for racist insults in a soccer stadium in Spain, LaLiga announced.

“This ruling is great news for the fight against racism in Spain as it repairs the damage suffered by Vinicius and sends a clear message to those people who go to a football stadium to insult that LaLiga will identify them, report them and there will be criminal consequences for them,” LaLiga president Javier Tebas said.

In Spain, prison sentences of less than two years for non-violent crimes rarely require a defendant without previous convictions to serve jail time so the three are likely to remain free unless they commit further offences.

The three supporters were also banned from entering football stadiums for two years.

The events happened at Valencia's Mestalla stadium in May last year, when racist slurs were hurled at Vinicius, who is Black, during a league match.

They led to an outpouring of support for the Brazilian forward and galvanised a series of local and international campaigns, including the creation of a Fifa antiracism committee made up of players.

“During the hearing, the defendants read a letter of apology to Vinicius, LaLiga and Real Madrid,” LaLiga said in a statement on Monday.

The court confirmed to Reuters that the sentences had been handed down and said they would be officially announced later in the day.

The 23-year-old Vinicius helped Real Madrid win the Champions League this past season. He was named the competition's player of the season and is one of the favourites to win the Ballon d'Or for the world's best player in October.

Sixteen incidents of racist abuse against Vinicius have been reported to Spanish prosecutors by LaLiga in the last two seasons.

In March, Vinicius broke down in tears at a press conference and said he was struggling to stay motivated and enjoy playing football due to the recurring abuse, urging Spanish authorities to take action.

In April, Spanish TV station Movistar Plus+ fired analyst German Burgos after Barcelona and Paris St-Germain refused to give interviews to the network after a comment he made about Barcelona's Lamine Yamal which was interpreted as racist.

In the same month, Atletico Madrid and Getafe were ordered to partially close their stands after racist and xenophobic abuse in a LaLiga game, while a third-division match between Rayo Majadahonda and Sestao River was suspended after Rayo's Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Kane Sarr confronted a rival fan who he said was racially abusing him. 

Reuters