Football player racially abused in Spain – How should Christians respond?

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid’s 22-year-old winger Vinicius Jr. was the latest victim of racial abuse by football fans at Sunday’s match between Real Madrid and Valencia. Three people have been detained and La Liga, the Spanish Football League, has been scrutinized for its actions after the incident.

Vinicius has experienced a series of racial abuse in the past year and in January 2023, an effigy was hung over a bridge, portrayed to look like the Brazillian player with his skin colour and football shirt. Four suspects have been arrested in connection with this crime. 

Messages of support have been flooding in for the football player with Brazillian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva condemning Sunday’s racial acts. The famous statue, Christ the Redeemer stood in solemn support for Vinicius as the lights surrounding the popular attraction were switched off on Monday night. 

Football is the leading sport in the world with an impressive fanbase of more than 3 billion. The much-loved game unifies groups of people from all social classes and cultures. Thus, discriminatory acts such as what occurred at Sunday’s match contradict the incorporative nature of the sport highlighting the broader societal issue which has been prevalent across other Sports, Entertainment and Music.

Last year Christian rapper Guvna B was the victim of an unprovoked racial attack as he left a coffee shop. He details the gruelling assault and the mishandling of his case by the police in the song Bridgeland Road

What can the Church do?

The Bible is clear that we should love our neighbour and overcome evil with good. Vinicius may not attend your service on Sundays but there could be a churchgoer in your congregation who has endured similar forms of racism. There may be a footballer in training within your youth group who has previously been singled out for their skin colour rather than their potential. Let us be compassionate and understanding, praying fervently for the safety of players like Vinicius and standing for justice when football players are racially targeted.