Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

The abuse aimed at Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior in a game against Valencia has made many question racism in La Liga and players protection.

Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

"In Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists"

The heated match between Real Madrid and Valencia in La Liga was clouded by racial abuse targeted at Vinicius Junior.

The game was paused on the evening of May 21, 2023, after Vinicius pointed out supporters who were taunting him from behind the goal.

Allegedly, fans were shouting the Spanish word for monkey and also gesturing ape-like movements to the player.

He alerted the referee who then went over to the touchline so an announcement could be made to stop fans abusing/being racist toward players.

Of course, some of the Valencia supporters jeered and booed at the message and continued their attacks toward the 22-year-old Brazilian.

Both his teammates and Valencia players tried to calm the winger down but his anger was too much to handle.

There was a moment in the match where the camera pans towards Vinicius and you can visibly see the teary-eyed player’s disgust.

The 10-minute incident boiled over towards the final minutes when Vinicius was actually sent off for violent misconduct.

Both sets of players came together in a fiery exchange and VAR suggested that the referee should have another look at the situation where Vinicius clearly swipes his arm across the opposition player’s face.

However, upon seeing the footage again, there is an argument that Vinicius was put in a headlock by a Valencia defender.

But, this part of the video was not shown to the on-field referee.

It was a sad end to Vinicius’ night who was the subject of racism throughout the game. After the match, there was an outpour of messages in support of the Madrid winger.

Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

Former Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand, posted on his Instagram:

“Bro you need protecting….who is protecting @vinijr in Spain?

“He receives a red card after being choked and receiving racial abuse during the game….wtf.

“How many times do we need to see this young man subjected to this shit?? I see pain, I see disgust, I see him needing help…and the authorities don’t do shit to help him.

“People need to stand together and demand more from the authorities that run our game.

“No one deserves this, yet you are allowing it. There needs to be a unified approach to this otherwise it will be swept under the carpet AGAIN.”

Vinicius himself came out and spoke about the incident on his Instagram, saying:

“It wasn’t the first time, not the second and not the third. Racism is normal in La Liga.”

“The competition thinks it’s normal, so does the Federation and the opponents encourage it. I am so sorry.

“The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi, today belongs to the racists.

“A beautiful nation, which welcomed me and I love, but which accepted to export the image to the world from a racist country.

“Sorry for the Spaniards who do not agree, but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.

“And unfortunately with everything that happens on a weekly basis, I have no way to defend. I agree.

“But I’m strong and will go to the end against the racists. Even though it’s far from here.”

Watch the full incident here:


Real Madrid’s manager, Carlo Ancelotti, had a press conference after the game and expressed:

“I never thought I’d have to [consider] taking a player off because he’s being abused…

“…I have never seen an entire stadium [chanting] racist abuse.

“There might be a few people who do it. But the whole stadium? I have never come across anything like it.”

Ancelotti was actually challenged on this accusation by one journalist who said the whole stadium wasn’t being racist, and they were chanting “idiot” instead of “monkey”.

Ancelotti defended himself, saying that the referee wouldn’t have opened up the racism protocol if the whole stadium was shouting “idiot”.

La Liga president, Javier Tebas, tweeted that Vinicius needed to inform himself of the league’s jurisdictions and blamed him for twice not meeting with him to discuss the matter.

Vinicius replied to him:

“Once again, instead of criticising racists, the president of LaLiga shows up on social media to attack me.

“I am not your friend to talk with about racism. I want actions and punishments. Hashtags don’t move me.”

All of the Madrid players posted tributes to Vinicius and messages of support.

However, other players like PSG’s Mbappe, ex-Madrid striker Ronaldo and Brazilian winger Neymar also declared their unity with Vinicius.

Racism Toward Vinicius Junior in the 22/23 Season

Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

This is not the first time the Madrid player has had to deal with abuse. These are all the incidents (thus far) that the player has had to deal with:

  • September 2022 – Some Atletico Madrid fans sang racist songs toward Vinicius outside their stadium. Atletico Madrid later condemned “unacceptable” chants by a “minority” of fans
  • September 2022 – some Spanish pundits criticise Vinicius’ goal celebration, in which he dances by the corner flag. He replies “the happiness of a black Brazilian in Europe” is behind the criticism
  • December 2022 – Vinicius was subjected to racist abuse at Valladolid while he walked past fans after being substituted. La Liga said it has filed charges relating to the abuse
  • January 2023 – An effigy of Vinicius was hung from a bridge near the club’s training ground before playing Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Atletico said the incident was “repugnant”
  • February 2023 – Mallorca fans were filmed allegedly racially abusing the Brazilian during a game.
  • March 2023 – La Liga said “intolerable racist behaviour was once again observed against Vinicius” in a game against Barcelona and it reported the racist insults to the Barcelona Court of Instruction
  • May 2023 – Vinicius suffers racist abuse against Valencia

Although the Brazilian has received ample support, this incident at Valencia highlights the magnitude of this issue in La Liga.

Likewise, the accountability is never taken by officials which was seen in this match as Vinicius was sent off which would have added more fuel to the fire.

The commentator also came under scrutiny for his lack of responsibility when narrating the incident. At one point, he said:

“We must stand against the racial abuse of Vinicius. But he is not a saint.

“He is provoking fans and that is not right.”

In response to the commentator, one Twitter user wrote:

“Commentators are all wrong on this, Vinicius is completely the victim. He’s being driven out of Spanish football.”

A further comment read:

“Your co-commentator STINKS. Imagine trying to justify and make a point about Vinicius being in the wrong.”

Past Incidents of Racial Abuse in La Liga

Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

The Vinicius Junior incident highlights a major problem within the Spanish top-flight competition.

Racial incidents have happened throughout the years with no real action taking place.

It’s why a lot of former and current players have attacked La Liga’s governing body and emphasised that they don’t care about racism or have any motivation to spark actual change.

In the game between Barcelona and Villareal in 2014, defender Dani Alves was the target of a racist attack.

Whilst going to take a corner, a Villareal fan threw a banana at the player.

Alves responded in the most perfect way by picking the banana up and taking a bite.

The clip went viral and landed the Villareal fan a lifetime ban as well as fining the club £10,000.

In the following season, both Alves and Neymar were subjected to racist chants in a game against Espanyol by their fans.

The chants said were allegedly “mono” which is the Spanish word for monkey and a common racist slur in the country.

Furthermore, in 2019, Colombian defender Jefferson Lerma accused Iago Aspas of racially abusing him in a match between Levante and Celta Vigo.

The astonishing element here is that Lerma reported the incident straight away to referee Alfonso Alvarez who brushed it off and stated he was tired of Lerma’s complaining.

Another case was in 2021 when Valencia faced off against Cadiz. Cadiz defender Mouctar Diakhby accused Valencia’s Juan Cala of calling him a racist slur.

The situation sparked a walk-off from the match. But, the teams quickly came back onto the pitch after they were threatened with a points deduction.

Diakhby didn’t play the rest of the match and sat in the stands. Valencia and Cala both received no punishment.

These cases highlight the magnitude of racism within La Liga and how little has been done to stop future incidents from happening.

Does La Liga have a Big Racism Problem?

Time will tell if there are any punishments handed out to Valencia or their fans. Shortly after the match with Real Madrid, they put out a statement that read:

“Valencia CF wishes to publicly condemn any type of insult, attack or downgrading in football.

“The club, in its dedication to the values of respect and sportsmanship, reaffirms publicly its position against physical and verbal violence in stadiums and regrets the events which occurred during the game.

“Although it is an isolated incident, insults towards any footballer of the rival team have no place in football and do not fit with the values and identity of Valencia CF.

“The club is investigating the events and will take the most severe measures.”

“In the same vein, Valencia CF condemns whichever offense and asks for the maximum respect towards our own fans.”

La Liga issued a statement of their own, announcing that they will be launching an investigation and will also look into alleged racist insults that were hurled at Vinicius outside of the stadium.


Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Instagram.

Videos courtesy of YouTube.

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