Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue has switched off its lights in a show of support for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr following racial slurs from Valencia fans at the Mestalla Stadium in Spain over the weekend.
The lights of the national landmark in Rio de Janeiro, the same state where Vinicius Jr was born, were switched off at 6pm local time (15:00 GMT) on Monday for an hour to cap a day where the Brazilian government and the world of football united to condemn the racist acts that took place at the Spanish league match on Sunday.
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The Archdiocesan Sanctuary that manages the monument turned off the lights in cooperation with the Brazilian FA and the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football.
“[This action] is a symbol of the collective fight against racism and in solidarity with the player and all those who suffer prejudice around the world,” the groups said, according to Brazilian media outlet Globo.
Vinicius Jr later wrote on Twitter: “Black and imposing. Christ the Redeemer was like this just now. An action of solidarity that moves me. But I want, above all, to inspire and bring more light to our struggle.”
His tweet had received more than half a million likes within a few hours of posting.
Preto e imponente. O Cristo Redentor ficou assim há pouco. Uma ação de solidariedade que me emociona. Mas quero, sobretudo, inspirar e trazer mais luz à nossa luta.
Agradeço demais toda a corrente de carinho e apoio que recebi nos últimos meses. Tanto no Brasil quanto mundo… pic.twitter.com/zVBcD4eF8k
— Vini Jr. (@vinijr) May 22, 2023
[Translation: “Black and imposing. Christ the Redeemer was like this just now. An action of solidarity that moves me. But I want, above all, to inspire and bring more light to our struggle. I am very grateful for all the current of affection and support I have received in recent months. Both in Brazil and around the world. I know exactly who is who. Count on me because the good ones are the majority and I will not give up. I have a purpose in life, and if I have to suffer more and more so that future generations don’t go through similar situations, I’m ready and prepared.]
Vinicius Jr has highlighted what he described as “continuous episodes spread across several cities in Spain” after he was the subject of the racist chants during Real’s 1-0 LaLiga defeat at Valencia on Sunday. The game was paused after the break as Vinicius Jr pointed out to the referee those who were allegedly abusing him in the stands.
Valencia say police have identified a fan who made racist gestures, and that individual faces a lifetime stadium ban from the Mestalla.
The Brazilian government called on Spanish and sports authorities earlier on Monday to punish those responsible, while the president of world football’s governing body FIFA, Gianni Infantino, expressed his solidarity.
Real Madrid said the racism directed at Vinicius Jr constituted a “hate crime” and had filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office.
In a strongly-worded statement, his club said: “Real Madrid CF shows its strongest revulsion and condemns the events that took place yesterday against our player Vinicius Junior.”
“Real Madrid considers that such attacks also constitute a hate crime, for which reason it has filed the corresponding complaint with the state attorney general’s office, specifically with the prosecutor’s office against hate crimes and discrimination, so that the facts can be investigated and clear responsibilities.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, meanwhile, tweeted: “Zero tolerance for racism in football. Sport is based on the values of tolerance and respect. Hate and xenophobia should have no place in our football or in our society.”
Tolerancia cero con el racismo en el fútbol.
El deporte se fundamenta en los valores de la tolerancia y el respeto.
El odio y la xenofobia no deben tener cabida en nuestro fútbol ni en nuestra sociedad. https://t.co/Ru7XwHlziQ
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) May 22, 2023
Other sporting figures such as Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand, and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton also voiced their support for the 22-year-old Vinicius Jr.
Spanish Football Federation head Luis Rubiales admitted there is a real problem of racism in the country’s football, where “press releases don’t work anymore”.