How Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. is spearheading the anti-racism movement in sports


When asked about racism, Brazil forward Vinicius Jr. sobs uncontrollably.

Last month, reporters approached Vinicius Jr. for an interview in Wembley’s mixed zone after Brazil’s 1-0 victory over England.

Asking, “Are we going to discuss football?” the Real Madrid striker smiled and said.

He consented to answer a few questions after the affirmative response. While in London, Vinicius sought to sidestep the subject of racism since he knew that at a news conference in Madrid a few days later, it would take center stage.

And that is exactly what he did. Before Brazil’s friendly match against Spain, he spoke about the impact of the racist insults he still faces in Spanish stadiums, although he later broke down in tears while doing so.

My only goal is to play football, but I’m having a hard time making progress. He spoke about how his mood was becoming worse and how he no longer wanted to play. “At 23 years old, I have to teach many Spaniards what racism is.”

It was already a major development that a superstar for the world’s largest club and national team was contemplating his future at this juncture in his career.

So yet, nothing has come of the ten racist instances that La Liga reported to Spanish authorities last season concerning Vinicius.

On Tuesday, in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Real Madrid will face Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu. While he is considered a brilliant player, the number seven may not be the most noticeable one.

However, right now he could be the most influential player on the planet.

He isn’t only fighting on the football field.

Despite the emotional toll it has taken, Vinicius has no plans to retreat from his position as the foremost Black voice against racism in football, which he has assumed in recent years.

“Vinicius is breaking the silence that used to surround this issue and was imposed by the football industry in the past,” said Marcelo Carvalho, creator and executive director of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football, in an interview with BBC Sport.

“He’s fighting against a system that is racist.The most oppressed football player ever?”

It was in a March friendly against Spain when Vinicius Jr. led Brazil for the first time.
Vinicius was born and raised in Sao Goncalo, the most violent city in the greater Rio de Janeiro region, and he had to fight his way to the top.

Little did he know that when he left Flamengo for Real Madrid in 2018 at the age of 18, he would encounter unrelenting boos from the crowd, monkey chants, and a bridge effigy pointed in his direction.

Carlo Ancelotti, manager of Real Madrid, made the following statement last month: “I’ve looked back a bit and I’ve never seen a player who has been persecuted like Vinicius.”

Since the crisis has escalated to a diplomatic level, the Brazilian government has summoned the Spanish ambassador to account for the events and demand action to put an end to them.

As long as he believes he can get away with it, Vinicius will behave independently.

As part of Black Awareness Day last year, the forward put up a billboard campaign with the message “Racism, don’t pretend you don’t see it” all around his nation and even internationally. Through his organization, he has also developed an anti-racism handbook and assisted in the renovation of other schools in his native country, all in an effort to create a more welcoming classroom climate for all students.

Similarly to other sportsmen, he has been outspoken on social media over incidents of racism.

He is solely responsible for these endeavors. Our goal is to empower him to fight more effectively by maximising their potential. We provide him our advise, but he has to battle for it. An anti-racism crusade was not suddenly launched by him. “He went through it,” his agent Frederico Pena revealed. “He gets into fights. He has been that way from the start. It seems to be a familial trait.

Has it no effect on how he performs?

For Real Madrid this season, Vinicius Jr. is second only in goals and assists to Jude Bellingham.
Vinicius considered quitting Real Madrid last season after being unhappy with the treatment he got from La Liga; nevertheless, his relationship with the organization has since evolved. The league’s recent efforts have been recognized.

Despite the criticism of his on-field behavior, Vinicius may be having his finest season to date, even if there was some worry among his entourage about the effect of racial insults on his performances.

In terms of statistics for the Spanish giants, Vinicius is second only to Jude Bellingham—the English midfielder has 20 goals and 10 assists—with 18 goals and six assists for Los Blancos this year.

Clearly, he is feeling the effects of the racism cases. According to Carvalho, Vinicius is more reactive during games.

“So while it’s great to have someone as powerful as Vinicius involved in this fight, it’s also dangerous for him to be in this position because of the pressure he can feel on the pitch and from other clubs and sponsors wanting to silence him.”

He hopes to put everything behind him against City and focus on playing football when the game starts.

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