LaLiga president Javier Tebas issues apology to Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr after comments amid racism storm
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has apologised for suggesting Vinicius Junior was being "manipulated" when the Real Madrid winger called out racism he has suffered in Spain.
The Brazil international took to social media to speak out after being abused in Sunday's game at Valencia, saying it was a problem he had endured throughout the league.
Tebas' response on Twitter, in which he said "Before you criticise and insult LaLiga, you need to inform yourself well, Vini Jr. Don't let yourself be manipulated", was roundly criticised for not addressing the issue and the LaLiga boss has now said sorry.
"I think that the message, and the intention I had, was not understood by a significant number (of people), especially in Brazil," he told ESPN Brazil.
"I did not want to attack Vinicius, but if most people understood it that way, I need to apologise. It was not my intention, I expressed myself badly, at a bad time.
"But I had no intention of attacking Vinicius, but rather clarifying a situation, because Vinicius had recorded a video supporting LaLiga's actions."
Tebas, in defending the league's approach - especially in relation to Vinicius - added: "If I hurt someone, they thought I was racist, it's far from reality.
"I feel sorry for what happened, and that's why we denounced it. And we didn't just denounce it, we took special actions at his games.
"We spoke to the clubs, so that they could provide more security, identify fans. LaLiga takes care of Vinicius. And, if they misunderstood what happened I have to apologise."
Vinicius threatened to leave the pitch in the second half at the Mestalla after being subjected to alleged monkey chants and Real, who said the incident constituted a "hate crime", filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General's Office.
Valencia were given a partial stadium ban for five matches and fined £39,000 - a punishment the club called "totally disproportionate" as they confirmed they would lodge an appeal, while head coach Ruben Baraja vowed to fight back against "smears".
England manager Gareth Southgate has led calls for stricter punishment since his side came close to walking off the field after players were subjected to racial abuse during a match in Bulgaria in 2019.
"It is a disgusting situation. I think it is so bad that it looks like it is going to force change. I am hoping there will be something positive to come from it," Southgate said on Wednesday.
"If anyone suggests to me we don't have a problem in society with racism then there is another example of what we are dealing with, and more examples of people burying their heads in the sand, quite frankly.
"Hopefully it is a story that doesn't just disappear in 24-48 hours without there being some significant change."
Vinicius, whose red card against Valencia on Sunday was rescinded, missed Real's game at home to Rayo Vallecano with a minor knee complaint but was at the ground to see his team-mates wear shirts with his number and name on the back before kick-off.
The Mario Kempes stand, where the chants targeting Vinicius originated in Valencia's 1-0 win on Sunday, will be closed for Valencia's one remaining home game this season and the first four matches of next season.
The club have said they will appeal the partial closure of the stadium.
Meanwhile, Vinicius' red card, issued in the wake of the abuse suffered in Valencia's victory over Real Madrid on Sunday night, has also been overturned by the Spanish FA (RFEF).
In a statement, the RFEF said: "The Competition Committee has sanctioned Valencia CF with the partial closure of the Mestalla stadium for five matches, specifically the Mario Kempes South Stand, following the events that occurred during the match between the team and Real Madrid.
"It is considered proven that, as reflected by the referee in his report, there were racist shouts at Vinicius, altering the normal course of the match and the infractions are considered very serious.
"In addition, an economic sanction of €45,000 is imposed on Valencia.
It added: "The RFEF Competition Committee considers that the referee's assessment was determined by the omission of the entirety of the play that took place, which affected the refereeing decision.
"The fact that he was deprived of a decisive part of the facts led him to adopt an arbitrary decision. And this is because it was impossible for him to properly assess what happened."
Responding to the ruling, Valencia said in their own statement: "Valencia CF wishes to show its total disagreement and indignation at the unfair and disproportionate penalty imposed by the Competition Committee on the club with the closure of the Entertainment Stand for five games.
"Valencia CF wants to publicly denounce that in this resolution of the RFEF Competition Committee they show evidence that contradicts what the national police and LaLiga say. In addition, this sanction is based on evidence that the club has not been able to see and without giving us a hearing.
"Valencia CF has condemned, condemns and will condemn in the most energetic way any act of racism or violence. For this reason we consider that penalizing and depriving all the fans who were not involved in these unfortunate incidents from seeing their team is a totally disproportionate, unfair and unprecedented measure against which we will fight."
In its full report, the RFEF found proof that Vinicius was subject to racist abuse when the Real Madrid bus first arrived at the Mestalla.
During the game, it added he had objects thrown at him in the 71st minute from the Kempes Stand, before racist chanting followed in the 73rd minute - when the referee first alerted the match delegate to make an announcement over the PA system.
Spanish police have arrested seven men in connection with separate racist incidents aimed at Vinicius Junior.
Four were detained on suspicion of hanging an effigy of Vinicius from a bridge in Madrid in January, with police saying three of the men are a "radical group of fans of a Madrid group" that were previously flagged as "high risk".
The effigy was hung on the morning of a Copa del Rey fixture between Real and city rivals Atletico Madrid, along with the words "Madrid hates Real".
Three other men were arrested in Valencia on Tuesday in connection with the racist abuse aimed at Vinicius during Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Real have reported the abuse as a hate crime, while the winger responded by saying LaLiga "belongs to the racists".
Vinicius was targeted by chants from sections of the crowd, with the game being stopped in the second half for 10 minutes as the visibly angry 22-year-old grabbed the referee and pointed towards fans who he felt had abused him.
He was later sent off for violent conduct in added time following an altercation with striker Hugo Duro.
The Brazil international has repeatedly been targeted with racist abuse, with LaLiga filing nine criminal complaints in the last two seasons.
On Tuesday, he took to Twitter to post a video from 1997 detailing racist attacks carried out by football fans in Spain, and captioned the post: "Racism in Spanish stadiums existed even before I was born.
"What has changed until today?"
LaLiga has called for a change to Spanish law in order to be given sanctioning powers to help it fight racism more effectively.
At present, LaLiga can only identify and report cases, but will now seek an amendment to the law that also enables it to bring disciplinary action.
After the latest incident on Sunday, Vinicius tweeted: "It wasn't the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga. In football they think it's normal, the federation does too - and the opponent encourages it.
"I'm so sad. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Lionel) Messi today belongs to racism.
"A beautiful nation, which welcomed me and which I love, but which agreed to export the image of a racist country to the world.
"I'm sorry for the Spaniards who don't agree but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists. And unfortunately, for something that happens each week, I have no defence. I let it happen.
"But I am strong and I will go to the end against racists. Even if it is far from here."
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told LaLiga to "stop talking, start acting" and demanded five points be enacted to improve the situation, including education in schools and banning those found guilty of racism from stadiums worldwide.
A statement from Real on Monday read: "Real Madrid strongly condemns the events that took place yesterday against our player Vinicius Junior. These events represent a direct attack on the social and democratic model of coexistence of our state based on the rule of law.
"Real Madrid believes that such attacks also constitute a hate crime and has therefore filed the corresponding report with the Attorney General's Office, specifically with the Prosecutor's Office against crimes of hatred and discrimination, in order for the facts to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable."
Carlo Ancelotti says he does not think Vinicius will leave Real as a result of the abuse he receives but demanded more action against those responsible.
"I don't think [he will leave], because he loves football and he loves Real Madrid," said Ancelotti. "His love for the club is very big and he wants to make his career here.
"Vinicius is sad. He's not guilty. He's a victim who can be painted as guilty sometimes when people say he's provoking or talking about his attitude. No. Let's make it very clear: Vinicius is the victim of all this.
"I want actions and nothing has been done yet. We're worried about what's happened, like everyone else."
Ancelotti - who said Vinicius missed training due to a small injury on Tuesday - added: "Leaving racism aside, which is the most serious thing, insulting seems to be a habit.
"I agree with what Xavi said - why is it normal to insult? Why is it a habit in football? This needs to stop. We're just tired of being insulted every day.
"This is not war, this is a sport. Condemning is not enough. We've been condemning racism for a very long time. But after condemning, one needs to act.
"Nobody has acted yet in a way that makes this problem go away. It's a problem of racism and it's a problem of insults."
LaLiga has said it will request all available images in order to investigate what took place in light of the incident. "If any hate crime is identified, we will take the appropriate legal action," the league said in a statement.
Valencia have announced they will "ban for life" the fans involved in the incident.
However, Javier Solis, their corporate director and spokesperson, demanded an apology from Ancelotti on Sunday, accusing the Italian of branding all Valencia fans as "racist".
Southgate: Vinicius situation so bad, it looks like it will force change
England manager Gareth Southgate was asked about the ongoing situation in Spain on Wednesday, with his players having previously experienced racism in international fixtures.
When asked about the prospect of players walking off the pitch in those situations, Southgate replied: "We could debate about walking off or not, it's a disgusting situation.
"It's so bad that actually it looks like it is going to force change. I am hoping there will be something positive to come from it.
"It has taken a central story not just in Spain but across Europe and around the world. That can only help to affect change.
"If anybody suggests to me we don't have a problem in society with racism then there's another example of what we're dealing with. More examples of people burying their heads in the sand, frankly.
"He's dealt with it brilliantly. He's got the support of the football community. I know some of our players have publicly mentioned that. We've been in a similar situation to how he's found himself and Carlo Ancelotti also dealt with it really well.
"It looks as though action has been taken overnight to deal with certain things. Hopefully, it's a story that doesn't just disappear in 24, 48 hours without there being some significant change."