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Vinicius in the eye of the hurricane


On Thursday night, Pedro Bravo, a prominent football agent and regular guest on Spanish sports programme El Chiringuito, joined the chorus of critics denouncing Vinicius’ dance celebrations. Bravo ended the debate with a very unfortunate phrase, “Stop monkeying around,” which suddenly launched the issue into the gloomy realms of racism. That was how it was taken in Brazil, prompting tweets or statements from the likes of Neymar, Romario, Raphinha and Pelé, who came out in defence of the player and his dances. Fast forward to Friday, Madrid issued its own statement. Pedro Bravo was keen to clarify that he used the expression as a way of saying, “Don’t act dumb,” without any underlying racist intent. However…

By that time the ball had already started rolling and on Sunday, a sector, a minority but by no means minimal, of Atlético fans were seen chanting, “You’re a monkey, Vinicius you’re a monkey...” as they waited to enter the stadium ahead of the derby. Atlético immediately issued a tweet which fortunately, prevented the chant from being repeated during the match, when the player ‘only’ had to listen to chants of, “Vinicius, die!” The episode underlines an overdue need for Atlético to expel that rabble of ultras - like Laporta did when he first arrived, a move which Florentino copied when radicals turned on him after he kicked Mourinho out. Atlético tolerates that scourge and once in every while, trouble rears its ugly head.

Vinicius meanwhile, didn’t have a good game. He was involved in just one counter-attack - the move that led to Valverde’s goal; he was fouled twice for the six fouls he committed and happily joined in dancing with Rodrygo to celebrate the first goal. But the big problem is with the lunatics and sometimes, there is no way around that, but I kept wondering if the dancing was necessary. Vinicius has his own, inimitable style of play and it’s fine for him to get past three opponents with a lambretta, but he would be better off trying to avoid some of the needless aspects of his position that only cause irritation - including dancing, but not only that. When all is said and done, I think it does him more harm than good.


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