Vinicius Jr: How Real Madrid forward is leading football’s fight against racism

Vinicius Jr, the Brazilian footballer who plays for Real Madrid, has become a leading voice against racism in football. Despite facing relentless racist abuse in Spanish stadiums, he remains determined to raise awareness and fight for inclusivity. Vinicius has been referred to as the “most persecuted footballer in history” and has been fighting against a system that is racist.

‘The most persecuted footballer in history?’

Vinicius had to overcome the odds to make it to the top. Growing up in Sao Goncalo, the most dangerous city in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area, he faced a lot of challenges. However, nothing prepared him for what he would face in Spain after leaving Flamengo for Real Madrid in 2018. He has faced relentless abuse from the stands, monkey chants, and even had an effigy hung from a bridge directed his way. Vinicius is breaking the silence that once surrounded this issue, imposed by the football industry.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti spoke out about the severity of the situation last month, stating, “I’ve looked back a bit and I’ve never seen a player who has been persecuted like Vinicius.” The Brazilian government has summoned the Spanish ambassador to address the recent incidents and called for measures to prevent their reoccurrence, turning the situation into a diplomatic issue. Despite the feeling of impunity, Vinicius acts on his own. He launched a campaign under the slogan “Racism, don’t pretend you don’t see it” on billboards across his country and even abroad for Black Awareness Day. He has renovated several schools through his foundation and released an anti-racism manual to promote inclusion in education.

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No impact on his performance?

Vinicius contemplated the idea of leaving Real Madrid due to the treatment he received from La Liga last season. However, his relationship with the organization has changed, and there is an acknowledgment of recent efforts made by the league. Vinicius has received criticism for his on-field behavior, but he is currently having his best season yet. So far, he has scored 18 goals and provided six assists for Los Blancos. In terms of numbers, he is only behind Jude Bellingham for the Spanish giants..

While the racism cases are affecting him in some way, Vinicius remains combative. According to Marcelo Carvalho, founder and executive director of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football, he’s more reactive during games. It’s great to have someone as powerful as Vinicius involved in this fight, but it’s also dangerous for him to be in this position because of the pressure he can feel on the pitch and from other clubs and sponsors wanting to silence him.

Vinicius will be hoping to put all this aside versus Manchester City and, when the whistle blows, do what he does best: play football.

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