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Vinícius Júnior during the match. SUR
Call out the rats

Call out the rats

It's time to end the denial and have zero tolerance of those filled with hate

Rob Palmer Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 26 May 2023, 13:21

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Just why do people go to football matches to hurl abuse? It's something I've never managed to get my head around.

The defence for the so-called Valencia "fans" was they were calling Vinícius Júnior 'tonto' not 'mono'. That's idiot, not monkey. I think they need to stay well away from football or any public gatherings if that is their reasoning.

It was one of the most difficult of commentaries I've ever experienced when the Real Madrid player alerted the referee to a couple of imbeciles who were shouting racist insults from the terraces behind the goal. I've called several games when there have been allegations after the event, but the player's action made it so obvious what was happening.

What unravelled next sparked global headlines.

Vinícius Júnior did exactly the right thing; the Valencia captain intervened; police sought out the imbeciles; the referee stopped the game, and the stadium was warned that the game could be suspended. Play did resume, the abuse of Viní Júnior did continue, and he was sent off after becoming involved in an exchange of slaps with an opponent.

In hindsight, the referee did the right thing according to the protocols. He stopped the match and his next action would have been to suspend the game - but Real's manager agreed to carry on. Carlo Ancelotti said: "Why should Vinícius emerge as the bad guy in this situation?"

Ancelotti was rightly furious in the post-match conference. Valencia took exception and claimed it was just a couple of fans in a packed stadium. Later footage emerged of hundreds of the club's supporters chanting racist slurs as the player had walked from the team coach to the stadium before the game. There was also video of a handful of idiots continuing the singing with the same chorus inside the stadium.

Hopefully the condemnation of the incidents has changed the stance of Valencia and the vile locals - I can't bring myself to describe them as fans.

After a ridiculous early stance when La Liga's president tried to claim Vinícius Júnior was somehow to blame, the authorities acted, and the terrace will be closed for five games. Valencia need to channel the energy from protesting the ban into finding the scumbags who bring shame on their club.

Yes, Vinícius Júnior is a provocative footballer who plays to the gallery and often brings the worst out from opposing players; yes, he is often at the centre of controversy; and yes, he should have been sent-off for slapping an opponent later in the game - and so should his opponent. I think the referee was willing to let the incident pass, but his VAR stitched him up.

I don't think his ban should have been overturned. He should be treated just the same as any other footballer. That includes respect from the terraces. It's an entertainment business that takes us away from everyday life, but emotions need to be kept in check.

I found myself in a situation at a Premier League game when a thug was screaming abuse at an opposing player in my vicinity. It wasn't racist but it was foul-mouthed, and he was situated in the family zone. I tried to reason with him, but his rant continued. Thankfully a senior steward intervened and pointed out that he would be evicted from the ground and lose his season ticket. Why would you behave like this? Why would you set this example in a family area?

It's an important incident for Spanish football and Spanish society. It's time to end the denial and have a zero tolerance of those filled with hate. Call out the rats.

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