Spanish police have detained four people who are accused of being involved in a hate crime against Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinícius Junior.
The suspects are allegedly part of an extremist group of supporters of another Madrid-based football club, according to a police statement.
They are believed to be responsible for hanging a dummy dressed in a Vinícius Junior shirt from a bridge in Madrid on 26 January, the day Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.
The dummy had a sign that read “Madrid hates Real”, which was seen as a racist and xenophobic provocation against the 22-year-old player.
Real Madrid condemned the incident at the time as a “malicious and disgusting racist and xenophobic act” and called for the perpetrators to be punished.
Vinícius Junior has been a frequent target of racial abuse since he joined Real Madrid from Flamengo in 2018 for a reported fee of £38 million, which was a record for an under-18 player.
He has become one of Real Madrid’s key players, helping them win the 2021-22 La Liga title and scoring the decisive goal in their 2022 UEFA Champions League final victory.
He has also represented Brazil at various levels, winning the 2015 South American U-15 Championship and 2017 South American U-17 Championship, where he was the top scorer. He made his senior debut in 2021 and was part of the squad that finished second at the 2021 Copa América and played at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
However, his success has not shielded him from racism. On Sunday, he was subjected to monkey chants from some Valencia fans during a La Liga match at Mestalla Stadium, which left him in tears.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti considered taking him off the pitch because of the abuse, but Vinícius Junior decided to continue playing.
Ancelotti denounced the behaviour of some Valencia fans as “something bad in this league” and said he was proud of Vinícius Junior’s reaction.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and La Liga have launched investigations into both incidents and have vowed to take action against any form of racism in football.