Police arrest 7 for alleged 'hate crimes' against soccer star Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid striker Vinicius Jr. continues to be subjected to racism during games in Spain's La Liga. Photo by Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA-EFE
Real Madrid striker Vinicius Jr. continues to be subjected to racism during games in Spain's La Liga. Photo by Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA-EFE

May 23 (UPI) -- Seven people were arrested in connection to two instances of alleged "hate crimes" aimed at Real Madrid soccer star Vinicius Jr., Spanish police announced Tuesday morning.

Authorities said they will continue to investigate to "identify other possible perpetrators."


The string of arrests came after the Brazilian forward issued a public statement Monday, calling racism "normal" in Spain and La Liga, the country's top soccer league. La Liga has reported a total of 10 instances of racial abuse against Vinicius over the past two seasons.

The latest claims occurred during Real Madrid's 1-0 loss to Valencia on Sunday in Valencia. Vinicius, 22, pointed out a fan who allegedly targeted him with vocal racial abuse and play was stopped for 10 minutes in the second half at Mestalla Stadium.

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Referees warned fans that any further racist comments would trigger another game stoppage, but the contest was completed. Tempers flared throughout the match, and Vinicius was sent off the field for his involvement in a skirmish in stoppage time.


La Liga and Spanish prosecutors announced Monday that they were investigating the latest alleged racist incident. Real Madrid said it filed a criminal complaint with authorities so they would look into the alleged "crimes of hatred."

Police first announced Tuesday that four people were arrested in Madrid for allegedly hanging a mannequin -- which wore a Vinicius shirt -- off a bridge near Real Madrid's training complex.

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That incident occurred in January before Real Madrid faced Atletico Madrid in an intercity rivalry match. The people arrested in connection with that matter were 19, 21, 23 and 24 years old. Authorities started an investigation into the incident Jan. 26.

Police said three of the four people arrested are "active members of a radical group of fans of a Madrid club" and were previously identified as "high risk" for violence.

Hours later, police said they detained three more "young people" in Valencia for "racist behavior that occurred Sunday" during the Real Madrid-Valencia match.

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"The investigation, which has had the collaboration of the Valencia Football Club, remains open to identify other possible perpetrators of similar conduct," police said.

Athletes from around the world continue to express support for Vinicius on social media amid the abuse. Neymar, Ronaldinho, Tom Brady and Lewis Hamilton were among those who wrote comments on Instagram for the Brazilian soccer star.

"With every away around, a pleasant surprise," Vinicius Jr. wrote Monday in the caption for an Instagram post, which featured a video montage of racial abuse. "And there were many that season. Death wishes, hanging dummy, lots of criminal screams. All in the books.

"The proof is in the video. Now I ask: how many of those racists have had their names and pictures exposed on websites? I answer with ease: zero," Vinicius wrote.


"No one to tell a sad story or make those fake public apologies. What is left to criminalize these people? And punish clubs? Why don't the sponsors charge La Liga? [Why] don't the televisions bother to broadcast this barbarism every weekend?"

Real Madrid will host Rayo Vallecano in another La Liga game at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Madrid.

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