Vinícius Júnior. SUR
Fans cross the line

Fans cross the line

The natural reaction is to boo the opposing hero. However, this abuse is illegal and embarrassing for Spanish football

Rob Palmer, Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 24 February 2023, 14:02


Jurgen Klopp was perplexed and the British media gobsmacked at such a question. The Anfield press room was full of indignation.

How on earth could the Liverpool manager be asked if Vinícius Júnior deserved the abhorrent name-calling that has crossed the line to racist abuse.

I keep telling my English colleagues that it was the most important question raised in any of the press conferences ahead of the Champions League games.

Klopp's response was honest and from the heart: «There's nothing in the world that could justify that. That's completely insane, nothing. I don't read these kind of things to be honest.»

The German coach can't be reading the Spanish press as this is the hottest topic right now. Week in, week out Viní Júnior teases opposing players, scores spectacular goals and celebrates with a little Brazilian dance.

The natural reaction of a football fan is to boo the opposing hero or anti-hero in their eyes. It's all like a pantomime when the baddie appears in a puff of smoke, or American wrestling where they cast the bad guy. That's all staged and part of the fun. This isn't fun, it's illegal and embarrassing for Spanish football.

La Liga's president Javier Tebas commented: «We cannot have a player that goes to all the pitches and is insulted». It was a half-hearted statement as he missed out the word 'racially'.

Some in the Spanish media have tried to justify the disgraceful insults by claiming that he brings it on himself with his antics. One Mallorca player called him a 'provocateur' and that may be accurate. One Mallorca fan used a racist slur and he's now about to appear in court.

A group of so-called Atlético Madrid fans hung an effigy of the footballer from a bridge in the capital. Just what brings someone to come up with an idea like that?

When there was a minute's silence for those affected by the horrendous earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, one imbecile decided he would break it by questioning the footballer's parentage. Later in the game a few more chanted a similar well known Spanish slur.

The Real Madrid manager Carlos Ancelotti said: «It's a Spanish football problem, and as a part of Spanish football I think it's a problem we have to solve.» He strode to the centre-circle at half time to diplomatically bring it to the referee's attention. Nothing was done.

It's time to act and let Spanish football followers know that it isn't acceptable to cross that line. That is why the question to Klopp was so important. Yes, the issue is being addressed in England and that's why it seemed so odd, but it needed the wider audience reached by an official UEFA platform.

Viní Júnior is a «wind-up merchant»; he does dive a little, he does react when provoked, he does an annoying little dance (if you are in opposition) and he could contain himself a little more. None of the above justifies racist slurs or the abuse of his mother.

Klopp added: «He's a world class player. You should not leave him alone in one-on-one situations. He's already a Real Madrid legend at such a young age.»

Vini Junior went on to score two goals against Liverpool and silence Anfield. The fans reacted by booing at times but recognised they are witnessing a special talent, an entertainer. Football is entertainment: Let's keep it that way.

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