Vinicius Jr.: The Real Madrid Forward Spearheading the Anti-racism Movement in Football

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

“But are we going to discuss football?” the Real Madrid forward cheerfully replied.

Following the affirmative response, he was willing to entertain a few inquiries. With prior knowledge of his upcoming press conference in Madrid, which would largely revolve around his personal battle against racism, Vinicius aimed to steer clear of the subject during his time in London.

And thus, he accomplished his task. However, during his speech prior to Brazil’s friendly match against Spain, he became emotional and shed tears while addressing the impact of the ongoing racist abuse he faces in Spanish stadiums.

“I simply desire to engage in football, yet progressing has proven to be challenging.” “I feel increasingly down and my motivation to play has been decreasing,” he expressed. “I find myself in a position where I often have to educate many individuals in Spain about the issue of racism, despite being only 23 years old.”

The fact that a highly regarded player, who has achieved success at both club and national level, is now contemplating his future at this stage of his career is a clear indication of how much the situation has progressed.

Last season, La Liga reported 10 instances of racism involving Vinicius to Spanish prosecutors, but it seems that little action has been taken thus far.

When Real Madrid faces Manchester City on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-finals, there is a player who may not be the most talented on the Santiago Bernabeu pitch, but he certainly deserves recognition.

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However, he may be considered the most influential football player in the world currently.

His battle extends far beyond the realm of football.

In recent years, Vinicius has emerged as a prominent advocate against racism in football. Despite the emotional toll it has taken on him, he remains steadfast in his commitment.

“Vinicius is challenging the long-standing silence that has been enforced by the football industry,” Marcelo Carvalho, founder and executive director of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football, shared with BBC Sport.

“He’s challenging a deeply flawed system.”

‘The most persecuted footballer in history?’

Vinicius Jr led Brazil as captain in a friendly match against Spain in March

Having grown up in Sao Goncalo, a city known for its challenges, Vinicius had to overcome numerous obstacles to achieve success.

Little did he know, the challenges awaiting him in Spain after his move from Flamengo to Real Madrid at the age of 18 in 2018 were far beyond anything he had imagined. The stands echoed with relentless abuse, monkey chants filled the air, and an effigy hung from a bridge, all directed at him.

“I’ve reflected on the past and I’ve never witnessed a player facing such relentless scrutiny as Vinicius,” remarked Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti in a recent statement.

The situation has become so serious that it has escalated into a diplomatic matter. The Brazilian government has requested a meeting with the Spanish ambassador to discuss the incidents and has urged for actions to be taken to prevent them from happening again.

Despite the prevailing sense of impunity, Vinicius continues to act independently.

Last year, the forward initiated a powerful campaign with the slogan “Racism, don’t pretend you don’t see it,” displaying it on billboards both domestically and internationally to commemorate Black Awareness Day.

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Additionally, he has contributed to the renovation of multiple schools in his home country through his foundation. Furthermore, he has published a manual aimed at promoting inclusivity in the educational setting by addressing issues of racism.

He has also expressed his opinions on social media regarding instances of racism involving other football players.

“These initiatives are completely his.” We strive to make things happen and provide him with the strength to fight. We provide guidance, but ultimately it’s his battle. His actions against racism didn’t arise without cause. “He endured it,” clarified his agent Frederico Pena. “He has a confrontational demeanour.” That has always been the case. It’s a hereditary trait.

Has it had no effect on his efficiency?

For Real Madrid this season, Vinicius Jr. is second only in goals and assists to Jude Bellingham

Displeased with the way he was treated by La Liga last season, Vinicius considered the possibility of departing from Real Madrid. However, it is evident that his relationship with the organisation has since undergone a transformation. Recent efforts made by the league have been acknowledged.

Amidst his entourage, there were worries about how racist abuse might affect his performances. However, despite the criticism surrounding his behaviour on the pitch, Vinicius seems to be heading towards his most impressive season yet.

Vinicius has been in impressive form for Los Blancos this season, contributing with 18 goals and six assists. His numbers are second only to Jude Bellingham, the English midfielder who has 20 goals and 10 assists for the Spanish giants.

“Clearly, the instances of racism are having an impact on him.” Carvalho noted that Vinicius has become more responsive during games.

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“Although it is beneficial to have someone of Vinicius’ stature engaged in this battle, it is also perilous for him to assume such a role due to the immense pressure he faces on the pitch and the attempts by other clubs and sponsors to suppress him.”

He will be looking to set aside all distractions against City and, when the whistle blows, do what he excels at: play football.

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