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Real Madrid and Brazil star Vinícius Jr. reduced to tears as he speaks about the racist abuse he’s received

Vinícius broke down in tears during a press conference on Monday. (Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Sam Joseph and Patrick Sung, CNN

(CNN) — Brazilian superstar Vinícius Jr. broke down in tears in an emotional media conference on Monday while speaking about his experience with racist abuse while playing for Real Madrid in Spain.

The 23-year-old has been subjected to racism from fans of opposing teams in Spain on multiple occasions in his Madrid career and said that he has struggled to remain positive and motivated towards soccer as a result of the abuse.

“I just want to play football, but it’s hard to move forward … I feel less and less like playing,” a visibly emotional Vinícius told reporters at the press conference, per Reuters, ahead of Brazil’s friendly against Spain in Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Despite the recurring discrimination that he has faced, Vinícius explained that he has not considered leaving Los Blancos as he intends to defy his abusers and take a stand against racism.

“It never crossed my mind (to leave Spain) because, if I leave Spain, I give the racists exactly what they want,” he told the media, according to Reuters.

“I will stay because, that way, the racists can continue to see my face more and more. I’m a bold player, I play for Real Madrid and we win a lot of titles and that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.”

Earlier this month, LaLiga – Spain’s top soccer league – said it was “studying and analyzing the facts” after it was alleged that Vinícius had been the target of racist abuse by a member of the crowd during Madrid’s match against Valencia.

This comes after a series of instances of racism that have been directed towards Vinícius in Spain.

These include an effigy of the Brazilian being hanged from a bridge before his side’s clash against city rival Atlético Madrid in January 2023 and persistent racial abuse in a match against Valencia later that year. Racist slurs have also been caught on camera during Real’s matches at Osasuna, Mallorca, Real Valladolid and Atlético.

Vinícius asserted at the media conference that he did not classify Spain as racist but called out the racist individuals in crowds and lamented the lack of consequences for their actions.

“I’m sure that Spain isn’t a racist country, but there are a lot of racists here and a lot of them are in the stadiums,” he told reporters.

“That has to change because maybe people don’t really know what racism is and that’s really complicated because, over the last three years, I’ve had to show a lot of Spaniards what racism is and that it really affects me. My family gets really sad at home.

“Since the first time I officially complained about the racism in Spain in the stadiums, things are getting worse because, since they aren’t punished, they are getting stronger.

“They know that they can do anything and they know that all of the words they say about the color of my skin can affect me on the pitch and they try to do that so that I play badly.

“I only want to be alright and that, in all the stadiums of Spain, I have the tranquility that no one will judge me for the color of my skin.”

La Liga told CNN Sport in 2023 that it cannot impose punishments on clubs or fans itself. Instead, it must report incidents to Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) committees or regional prosecutors who then deal with them as legal cases before sporting punishments are handed out.

Mixed response

While several of Vinícius’ peers have spoken out in solidarity with the young superstar in the past, reaction from the media in Spain to the Brazilian’s emotional media conference has been more mixed.

Notably, some Spanish journalists say Vinícius has only himself to blame for the abuse he’s received.

“Vinícius should ask himself why (Jude) Bellingham, Rodrygo or (Eduardo) Camavinga don’t have these same incidents don’t happen to them,” journalist David Bernabeu wrote in an opinion piece for Spanish news outlet Sport.

This comes after LaLiga president Javier Tebas accused the forward in 2023 of not cooperating with the league to find out more about what it was doing to fight racism, an assertion he was forced to backtrack and apologize for to ESPN Brazil, saying, “It was not my intention, I expressed myself badly, at a bad time.”

Despite the criticism that Vinícius has received in Spain, many in other countries remain firmly in support of the talented Brazilian.

Troy Townsend, head of player engagement at British anti-racism organization Kick It Out, expressed his sympathy for Vinícius and criticized the sport for not taking a more active stance against racism.

“Players are always told, ‘Don’t show signs of weakness,’” Townsend wrote on X on Monday. “All I see is unbelievable strength from a young man visibly hurt by the continuous targeted racial abuse. This is what it does … and yet the game shys away every time.”

Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand also weighed in on the situation on social media.

“I know there is RACISM in the [Spanish] stadiums there & it seems to be accepted by the authorities for some reason??? To see a young man break down in a press conference like @vinijr is heartbreaking to see,” he wrote.

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