Seven people suspected of hate crimes targeting Real Madrid footballer Vinicius Jr. have been arrested.
Spanish police say three people have been arrested in Valencia in connection with racial slurs hurled at the Brazilian striker at the city’s Mestalla stadium during a La Liga game on Sunday.
Meanwhile in Madrid, four other people suspected of hanging an effigy of the star from a bridge have been arrested.
A hate crime investigation has been opened after the model – who wore the star’s number 20 jersey – was hung from a bridge outside Real Madrid’s training ground in January.
It hung next to a 16m red and white banner that read ‘Madrid hate Madrid’.
Real Madrid filed a hate crime complaint with Spanish prosecutors after the player was the target of racial slurs during their 1-0 defeat at Valencia on Sunday.
Valencia say police have identified a fan who made racist gestures at Vinicius Jr and that person faces a lifetime stadium ban from the Mestalla ground.
The lights of Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue were turned off for an hour Monday night in solidarity with Vinicius Jr.
The Archdiocesan Shrine, which manages the monument, carried out the act in cooperation with the Brazilian FA and the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football.
MadridThe game against Valencia was called off on Sunday night after the half-time break as the Brazilian pointed to supporters who taunted him at the referee.
Vinicius, who has been racially abused from the stands on several occasions this season, was furious, prompting his teammates and opposing players to try to calm him down.
He tweeted after the game: “It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in La Liga. In football, they think it’s normal, the federation too – and the opponent encourages it.
“I’m so sad. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano [Ronaldo] And [Lionel] Messi today belongs to racism.
“A beautiful nation, which welcomed me and which I love, but which agreed to export the image of a racist country in the world.
“I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree but today in Brazil Spain is known as a country of racists. And unfortunately for something that happens every week I have no defense I let it be.
“But I am strong and I will go all the way against the racists. Even if it is far from here.”
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La Liga president Javier Tebas responded to Vinicius’ message on Sunday accusing the striker of ‘criticizing and insulting’ the league.
In another tweet on Monday, Tebas said: “Neither Spain nor La Liga are racist. It’s very unfair to say that.”
In a strong statement, the 22-year-old’s club said: “Real Madrid CF shows its utmost revulsion and condemns the events that took place yesterday against our player Vinicius Jr.
“These facts constitute a direct attack on the model of coexistence of our social and democratic rule of law.
“Real Madrid considers that such attacks also constitute a hate crime, which is why they have filed the corresponding complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office.”