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Spain arrests seven after racist incidents targeting Vinicius Jr

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Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior gestures towards a fan as Valencia's Jose Gaya and Cenk Ozkacar attempt to restrain him, May 21, 2023. REUTERS/Pablo Morano

Police detained seven men on Tuesday over separate alleged hate crime incidents against Real Madrid football player Vinicius Jr as Spain’s main soccer league urged changes to Spanish law that would enable it to take steps to curb racism in stadiums.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti expressed support for Vinicius Jr, whom he expected would remain at the club.

He lambasted Spain’s “obsolete” protocols to deal with racism in the sport, and said he would consider taking his players off the pitch if they were abused again during a game as Vinicius Jr was in Sunday’s LaLiga match at Valencia.

Puma, sponsor of both Valencia and LaLiga, also offered its support to Vinicius Jr, as did Spanish bank Santander, whose title sponsorship with LaLiga ends after this season.

“At PUMA, we do not tolerate racism, we condemn discrimination in any form and stand in solidarity with Vinicius Junior,” Puma said in a statement to Reuters.

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A hate crime investigation was opened after an inflatable effigy dressed in the No. 20 jersey of winger Vinicius Jr was hung from a bridge in front of the club’s training grounds. Alongside it was a 16m (17.5-yard) red and white banner – the colours of rival team Atletico Madrid – that read “Madrid hates Real”.

Four men were arrested in Madrid, police said, three of whom were members of “a radical group of fans of a Madrid club”, who were previously flagged during matches as “high risk” to help curb violence during games.

Three men were also arrested in Valencia for racist conduct aimed at Vinicius Jr in Sunday’s match, police said on Twitter.

Vinicius Jr, in a social media post, called the racist abuse “inhuman” and asked sponsors and broadcasters to hold LaLiga accountable.

‘IMPOTENT’

Valencia’s south stand will be partially closed for five matches and the club fined 45,000 euros ($49,536), the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced on Tuesday.

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However, LaLiga said in an earlier statement that it felt “impotent” to tackle the issue while Spanish legislation limited its actions to merely detecting and reporting racist incidents

It urged that the law be modified so it could cancel matches and ban fans from stadiums if racist behaviour is detected.

“LaLiga is extremely frustrated by the lack of sanctions and convictions by sporting disciplinary bodies, public administrations and courts public administrations and the jurisdictional bodies to which complaints are made,” it said in a statement.

Vinicius has expressed frustration that LaLiga has not exerted pressure on the Spanish football federation, which does have the power to apply stadium closures and bans, according to sources close to the player.

The federation can cancel a match if racist insults continue after a 10-minute period in which the game is paused and the crowd warned. To date, no match in Spain has enforced it.

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The Brazilian player was particularly aggrieved by comments made by LaLiga President Javier Tebas on Sunday, in which he accused the player of failing to turn up to meetings so that LaLiga could explain what it has been doing to address racism, sources close to the player told Reuters.

Vinicius was initially receptive to a meeting if it was held behind closed doors, according to the sources, but turned it down believing the LaLiga administrator was seeking publicity by holding it at its Madrid offices.

LaLiga declined to comment on the proposed meeting with Vinicius while the football federation did not respond to a request for comment about its powers to cancel matches.

The federation and LaLiga said on Tuesday they were launching a campaign until the end of the season against racism.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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La Liga

Capacity crowd of 80,000 attend Mbappe’s unveiling at Real Madrid

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Around 80,000 fans have arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu to witness his unveiling © Provided by Daily Mail

Kylian Mbappe has been given a rousing welcome at Real Madrid as a capacity crowd of fans attended the unveiling at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The club also lined out their 15 Champions League trophies to welcome the French Superstar.

Mbappe walked past Real Madrid’s 14 Champions League trophies as he took to the stage to speak© Provided by Daily Mail

He  beamed as he spoke about joining the ‘club of his dreams’. Mbappe, 25, will take the number nine shirt after sealing his move from Paris Saint-Germain and ending one of football’s most protracted transfer sagas. 

The forward was serenaded as the Bernabeu blasted out their iconic Hala Madrid anthem and paraded in front of fans booting footballs into the baying crowd. In imitation of Cristiano Roandlo at his unveiling, he kissed the badge. 

His mother broke down in tears as he emerged and spoke of his pride to be joining the ‘biggest club in the history of world football

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Mbappe’s parents, Fayza Lamari (R) and Wilfrid Mbappe (L), walked out in front of the fans © Provided by Daily Mail

‘My family are so happy. I can see my mum crying. It’s an incredible day for me. I’ve dreamed about this day since I was a kid. Being here today means a lot to me,’ he said in Spanish as the crowd persistently interrupted his speech with cheers.  

‘Now I have another dream – and that’s the dream of living up to this club’s history and Madridistas’ expectations. I can promise that I will give my all for the club and this badge. 

‘I’d also like a send a message to all the kids here today. I was once like you. If you have the passion, you’ll achieve your dreams. 

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Napkin used by Barcelona to sign Messi sold for nearly $1 million

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A signed and framed napkin on which soccer club Barcelona promised to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi is displayed at the Bonhams auction house in London, Britain May 8, 2024. REUTERS/Will Russell/File Photo

The napkin on which Barcelona promised to sign Lionel Messi when he was a 13-year-old has been sold for 762,400 pounds ($969,000, auction house Bonhams said on Friday.

The napkin was signed in December, 2000 by Barca’s former sporting director Carles Rexach and transfer advisor Josep Minguella along with Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli over lunch at a tennis club.

Messi became one of Barcelona’s greatest players, winning over 30 trophies and leaving the Catalan club as their all-time leading scorer with 672 goals.

He also won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player and led Argentina to the World Cup crown in 2022. Messi now plays for U.S. club Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

“Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi’s career,” Ian Ehling, the head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said in a statement.

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“It changed the life of Messi, the future of FC Barcelona, and was instrumental in giving some of the most glorious moments of football to billions of fans around the globe.”

-Reuters

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La Liga

Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match –

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Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match -

Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr has heard racial slurs directed at him from the stands before, but when a fan allegedly approached just to racially insult him during a Spanish third-tier league game last Saturday, he decided he’d had enough.

“I grabbed him and asked why he was insulting me. My attitude was not aggressive, I just wanted to ask him why,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Tuesday of the incident in Sestao, a working-class town in northern Spain, which led to the game being abandoned.

“Other times it could be seen as something playful or a joke. However, this was not the case on Saturday, as it was something horrible and I could not stop myself. It was a very sad and ugly thing what they were saying,” he added.

The match between Sarr’s Rayo Majadahonda and Sestao River Club was suspended in the 84th minute after the altercation first led to Sarr being expelled by the referee, who was too far to hear the alleged insults, and then his team mates leaving the pitch in protest.

Racism in sport has been a hot topic in Spain, especially after Real Madrid’s Brazil winger Vinicius Jr, who has suffered from several incidents of racist abuse and is part of a campaign against racism, last year called LaLiga and Spain racist.

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On Saturday, he spoke out in support of those affected on social media again, citing “three despicable cases of racism” on that day alone, including Sarr’s.

Sevilla’s Argentina defender Marcos Acuna and coaching staff were also the target of “racist and xenophobic insults” from fans in a LaLiga game at Getafe, the club said.

Sarr said he was thankful that Vinicius had tagged him on social media showing support.

“If more players said no to racism like he does, they (racists) wouldn’t have the power they have now,” he said.

Reuters

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