LaLiga president Javier Tebas on Wednesday apologised for a tweet about Vinícius Júnior he said was misinterpreted, and said that the Spanish federation (RFEF) ought to be doing more to combat racism because the league does not currently have that authority.
“I always tell this to my entire work team. When people or an important part of them understand a message in a certain way, then they are right so I have to be sorry because I think my message was not understood, especially in Brazil,” Tebas told ESPN Brasil. “So, I have to be sorry because I think my message and the intent with which I wrote it, an important part of it was not understood, especially in Brazil.
“Because my intent was not to attack Vinícius, but rather to clarify that Vinícius just one month ago made a video supporting the actions of LaLiga [against racism].”
Repeated racist abuse against Vinícius has unleashed a heated debate in Spain about tolerance for racism.
The LaLiga match at Mestalla between Real Madrid and Valencia was stopped during the second half after the Brazil international identified a fan in the crowd behind the Valencia goal as having racially abused him.
In social media posts after Sunday’s game, Vinícius said that “racism is normal in LaLiga” and claimed that “in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.”
Tebas responded to Vinícius’ criticism in a Twitter exchange.
“Neither Spain nor LaLiga are racist,” Tebas said. “It is very unfair to say that. At LaLiga we denounce and tackle racism with all the toughness within our powers.”
Tebas on Wednesday blasted the Spanish federation for not doing more and said that if LaLiga had the authority to take action inside the stadiums, the problem of racist and anti-gay chanting “would be resolved within months.”
Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales admitted Monday that Spain has a racism problem and called for sanctions and punishment for the fans involved. The RFEF said Wednesday that Valencia’s south stand will be partially closed for five matches and also fined the club while rescinding Vinícius’ red card.
The winger was sent off in stoppage time by referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea for striking an opponent following a scuffle with Valencia players in which Vinícius appeared to be grabbed around the neck.
Tebas said his hands are tied regarding legal punishment for fans who make offensive or racist chants.
“This season, racist insults have been reported nine times. Eight of them have been for insults against Viní. We always identify these maniacs and file a complaint with the relevant bodies. It doesn’t matter how few they are, we are always relentless,” Tebas said.
“The federation and LaLiga are two different entities. We don’t have the authority to expel people from the stadiums; they do. We would take action if we had more authority to sanction and punish offenders. We would close the stadiums, ban the fans, but we only have responsibility from outside the stadium.
“We have filed grievances about racism that ended in just fines. I hope that we can be given the authority to take action,” Tebas said. “Because I think if we had the authority to take measures, we would end racism in the stadiums within months.”