RFEF close Mestalla stand and Vinicius red overturned - when will he play again?
The Spanish Football Federation announced the decision on Valencia’s stadium as well as rescinding Vinicius’ red card.
The Spanish Football Federation, RFEF, have ordered Valencia CF to close to Kempes Stand of their Mestalla Stadium after fans racially abused Real Madrid’s Vinicíus Júnior in the 1-0 win at the weekend. The Brazilian winger, in an act of both remarkable courage and indescribable exhaustion, called out a fan who used racist language to insult him from the stand. The RFEF, after Valencia banned 4 people for life for their part in the incident, have decided that the correct punishment for the incident is to close the stand where the insult came from.
As well as this, it has also been confirmed that the red card Vinícius received later in the game after getting into a tussle with Hugo Duro, will be rescinded. The player was sent off for violent conduct but the decision caused controversy as VAR failed to see the earlier incident of what appeared to be Duro putting the Brazilian in a headlock.
On Vinicius’ red card, Real Madrid were expecting Vini Jr to be absent for the game against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday 24 May and the player even had a rest day and did not join in with his teammates during the team training session. He will now be able to play.
The question is: has the RFEF finally decided, once and for all, that racism in Spain cannot continue?
Has football’s most powerful body in this country finally had enough of their players suffering racist abuse from fans in the stands, week in and week out?
Will this reaction be a true watershed moment for the country to realise that there is a problem that can’t be solved by a Twitter campaign and a tarpaulin?
You may think I’m joking, but here’s an official announcement from the RFEF: The campaign “Racistas, fuera del fútbol” (Racists, out of football) includes a symbol that shows a hand making the sign “stop” within a circle of colors that want to represent the diversity of our country. This symbol is designed to be permanent, to represent the struggle of the RFEF and the whole of Spanish football in defence of equal treatment... Specifically, the actions established within this campaign include that, before the start of the match, a tarpaulin will be placed on the pitch with the message “Racists, out of football” which - once the protocol for the departure of teams has been carried out - will be held by the players of both teams and the referees.”
I’ll just leave that there.
Valencia fans banned, stand closed and fine handed out
Now, after some of the world’s best players, past and present, came out in support of Vinícius, after the world media openly called Spain ‘racist’, after the lights were turned off Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in support of the young boy who moved 5,000 miles from home at just 18 to play football, the RFEF have decided to act.
The statement from the governing body regarding the partial closure of Mestalla read:
“The Competition Committee have punished Valencia CF with the partial closure of Mestalla Stadium for 5 games, specifically the Mario Kempes Stand, after the events that occurred during the First Division league game between Valencia and Real Madrid.
It has been proven that, as the referee wrote in his report, there were incidents of racist abuse aimed at Real Madrid player, Vinicius, during the aforementioned game, which stopped the play, and the infractions are very serious. Valencia will be fined €45,000.”
Racism in Spain - and Spanish football - is a huge issue. There is no excuse for the abuse suffered from Vini Jr, a 22-year-old who is only doing his job. Perhaps the player provokes his opponents, perhaps the fans don’t appreciate his dancing and see it as disrespectful, perhaps his skills are seen as showing off? It doesn’t matter. When it comes to racist abuse, nothing can justify it. And for too long, both LaLiga and the RFEF have sat on their thumbs and watched it pass by like a cloud in the wind.
Let’s hope we look back on this as the first moment of real change in Spanish football. Let’s hope the RFEF ditch the wordy, graphic design campaigns that we have seen up until now and regard the abuse Vini Jr has received in stadiums across Spain as an issue that needs constant attention until it stops. And most of all, let’s hope Vinicius feels he can trust the reactions of the people who should be taking care of him as he does his job.
To see such a young, talented and happy human being leave Spain would be a shame; to see him forced out by racists would be a disgrace.