MADRID (Reuters) -Police detained seven men on Tuesday over separate alleged racist incidents against Real Madrid football player Vinicius Jr as Spain’s main soccer league urged changes to Spanish law that would enable it to take steps to curb racism in stadiums.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti expressed support for Vinicius Jr, whom he expected would remain at the club.
He lambasted Spain’s “obsolete” protocols to deal with racism in the sport, and said he would consider taking his players off the pitch if they were to be abused again during a game.
A hate crime investigation was opened after an inflatable effigy dressed in the No. 20 jersey of winger Vinicius Jr was hung from a bridge in front of the club’s training grounds. Alongside it was a 16m (17.5-yard) red and white banner – the colours of rival team Atletico Madrid – that read “Madrid hates Real”.
Four men were arrested in Madrid, police said, three of whom were members of “a radical group of fans of a Madrid club”, who were previously flagged during matches as “high risk” to help curb violence during games.
Three men were also arrested in Valencia for racist conduct aimed at Vinicius in a match between Valencia and Real Madrid, police said on Twitter.
The arrests come a day after football federation chief Luis Rubiales said Spanish soccer has a racism problem, following a race-crime complaint lodged by Real Madrid.
After slurs were aimed at Vinicius Jr during a Spanish league match on Sunday, Vinicius Jr, in a social media post, called the racist abuse “inhuman” and asked sponsors and broadcasters to hold LaLiga accountable.
LaLiga, which has come under pressure to do more after the Brazilian president, FIFA, and sporting stars such as France forward Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton voiced support for Vinicius, said in a statement on Tuesday that it felt “impotent” to tackle the issue while Spanish legislation limited its actions to merely detecting and reporting racist incidents.
LaLiga listed a number of incidents against Black players, including nine against Vinicius, which did not go to trial because of insufficient evidence and urged that the law to be modified so that it could
“LaLiga is extremely frustrated by the lack of sanctions and convictions by sporting disciplinary bodies, public administrations and courts public administrations and the jurisdictional bodies to which complaints are made,” it said in a statement.
Vinicius has expressed frustration that LaLiga has not exerted pressure on the Spanish football federation, which does have the power to apply stadium closures and bans, according to sources close to the player.
The federation can cancel a match if racist insults continue after a 10-minute period in which the game is paused and the crowd warned. To date, no match in Spain has enforced it.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo and Fernando Kallas; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bernadette Baum)
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