Written by Patrick Echatah
Roberto Carlos experienced racial taunts when participating in his first Real Madrid clásico in 1997. Every time he touched the ball, Barcelona supporters chanted “monkey,” held up racist banners, and even scrawled the word “monkey” on his car as a nice surprise for him to discover later.
No fines or penalties were handed down, and if Carlos had hoped for any professional support at this most trying of times after publicly protesting, he was out of luck. Pep Guardiola, a center midfielder for Barcelona at the time responded that day, saying, “This man talks a lot, he talks too much, he doesn’t know our fans, and he hasn’t been here long enough to justify these things.” Guardiola was a member of the Spain national team.
It’s difficult to say exactly when Vincius began to get harassment from opposing supporters. During the minute of silence for the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, there were some monkey chants at Mallorca’s Son Moix stadium this month. Last month, an Atlético Madrid-themed effigy was hung from a highway bridge close to Real Madrid’s training facility.
Yet, this has been going on for more than a year; it is a gruesome performative gauntlet of othering and dehumanization. It seems like the longer it goes on, the more routine it becomes and the less shocking it is.
Every time Carlo Ancelotti has to discuss it, you can feel his heart aching a little bit more. Thus, on most weekends, Vincius just sighs, lace on his boots, and waits to see what happens.
Whom specifically do we consult about this? Where are the points being taken off, the stadiums being shut down, and the jaw-dropping fines? Where are UEFA and FIFA, who are more than willing to use Vincent’s talent to advance their own tournaments but have said nothing about this?
There have been the customary bland pronouncements, the customary shifting of blame, and the customary ambiguity. La Liga contends that it lacks the authority to impose athletic sanctions and instead refers all disputes to the legal system, which has repeatedly shown itself to be an utterly ineffective adjudicator.
The Madrid prosecutor’s office declined to file any charges after Atlético fans were caught on camera chanting “Vincius, you are a monkey” during a match against Real in September, claiming the chant was “disrespectful” but only lasted a few seconds and needed to be viewed in the context of the “fierce rivalry” between the clubs.
The belief that Vincius incites these racist chants through his dancing and showboating, his conduct on the field, and his dance celebrations is related to this. In September, a guest on the well-known television program El Chiringuito de Jugones suggested that Vincius should “stop playing the monkey,” either with the maximum amount of irony or none at all.
Atlético’s criticism of their own supporters was qualified by the statement that it was “everyone’s obligation” to promote goodwill between the two teams. On radio and television programs, Vincius’ behavior is frequently discussed at the same length as the abuse he endures, as if these were two equally valid points of view, and as if Vincius’ inherent humanity were no more than a topic for a phone-in conversation.
In many ways, this is a textbook illustration of how victims of racism are frequently gaslighted: they are assaulted and then forced to bear responsibility for their own victimization. There has been some idle conjecture that Vincius may grow weary of his treatment and quit La Liga because no football narrative really exists without a transfer angle. But to categorize this as a disease that only affects Spaniards would be to misinterpret the nature of the issue.
Furthermore, it seems pointless to hold England up as any sort of gold standard considering the frequent online abuse and harassment of notable black Premier League players.
if football can’t protect Vinícius, what chance does it have with anyone else?
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