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Brazil's president, players support Vinícius Júnior, criticize racism in Spanish league

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has joined soccer clubs and players in coming out to support star striker Vinícius Júnior after he once more faced racist abuse in a Spanish league match on Sunday.

The latest incident took place in Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Valencia, a match that had to be temporarily stopped after the Brazil forward said he was insulted by a fan behind one of the goals at Mestalla Stadium.

Valencia fans were filmed making monkey chants toward Vinícius, who is Black.

Lula told a news conference in Japan on the sidelines of a G7 meeting that he hopes FIFA, the Spanish League and other soccer bodies “take measures so we don’t allow racism and fascism to take over” in the sport.

“It is not fair that a poor boy who is winning in his life, becoming one of the best in the world, certainly the best at Real Madrid, is insulted in every stadium he goes to,” Lula said. Several of his cabinet ministers also backed Vinicius and were critical of the Spanish league.

Brazil’s Human Rights Minister Silvio Almeida, who is Black, said on Twitter: “The behavior of Spanish authorities and of the entities that govern its soccer is criminal.”

“It shows undeniable acceptance of racism,” Almeida said. “(Vinicius) I will be on your side to hold those that attack you accountable, but also those who omit themselves."

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes used expletives on Twitter to insult Spanish league president Javier Tebas, who criticized Vinicius following the incident for his comments on the lack of action of the sport's national authorities every time he is racially abused during matches.

“You want to blame the victim, you idiot?” Paes posted.

Ednaldo Rodrigues, the first Black president of the Brazilian soccer confederation, said he is troubled by the lack of action in Spain after another racist incident against Vinicius.

“Until when will we have to see episodes like the one we just witnessed, yet again in La Liga?" Rodrigues said. “Until when will we have to fight for concrete and efficient measures on and off the pitch? There is no joy where there is racism.”

Flamengo, the club where Vinicius started his career, issued a statement saying “it is even more shocking to know that it is not the first time and that so little has been done to fight (racism in the Spanish league) and stop it from happening again.” Other Brazilian clubs made similar comments.

Many of Vinicius' teammates in the national team also showed their support for the 22-year-old forward, who has been subject to racist abuse since moving to Spain five years ago.

“They always did whatever they could to stop Blacks from coming near the top,” striker Richarlison said. “They enslaved, marginalized and killed. But they will never knock down those who were born to be big. History forgets the rats and makes those fighting these bad people much bigger. I am with you always, Vini.”

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti considered replacing Vinícius after he said fans at the Mestalla Stadium chanted “monkey” toward him. He said Vinícius initially didn’t want to continue playing.

He was later sent off after an altercation with Valencia players, and gestured to home fans about their team’s fight against relegation as he left the field.

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