Vinícius Júnior still a target for racial abuse ahead of Spain-Brazil game

Vinícius Júnior clenched his right fist and raised it high above his head after scoring at Mestalla Stadium, posing for a moment to make sure everyone noticed.

The symbolic gesture in early March came nearly a year after the Real Madrid forward was on that same field with tears in his eyes after being racially abused by some Valencia fans.

That incident sparked an outpouring of support for the Brazil forward, who is Black, and set off widespread calls for action by Spanish authorities and society in general.

At the time, many saw it as a turning point in the fight against racism in Spanish soccer.

But some 10 months later, Vinícius has continued to be subjected to racist abuse in Spain despite the initial uproar that accompanied the incident at Mestalla.

The Brazilian broke down in tears while talking about the insults ahead of Tuesday’s international friendly between Spain and Brazil that was originally set up under the theme “One Skin” following the racial abuse aimed at Vinícius last year.

“Things have gotten worse since the first time I denounced what happened to me,” Vinícius said. “Because people are not punished, they feel like they can keep saying things about the color of my skin to try to affect how I play. But they could try to do that in other ways, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I just want to play, and I want to be able to go to stadiums without anyone bothering me because of the color of my skin.”

The Spain-Brazil game will take place just days after a new wave of racist and hate insults targeted Vinícius in matches in Spain.

“We haven’t fully advanced,” said Esteban Ibarra, president of the Movement Against Intolerance, Racism and Xenophobia in Spain. “There was some response, but it wasn’t a significant step forward. In the end, if there still is a dominant feeling of impunity, the fans will keep acting the same way as before.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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