Spanish soccer has a racism problem, its football federation chief Luis Rubiales said on Monday, echoing criticism by Brazil after Real Madrid lodged a race crime complaint following insults hurled at their Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr, APA reports citing Reuters.
The top-flight LaLiga is under pressure to do more to combat racism after the Brazilian president, FIFA and fellow sporting stars such as France forward Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton voiced support for Vinicius.
In a social media post, Vinicius Jr. called racist abuse "inhuman" and asked sponsors and broadcasters to hold LaLiga accountable.
"What is missing to criminalize these people? And punish the clubs sportively? Why don't the sponsors charge LaLiga? Don't the televisions bother to broadcast this barbarity every weekend?" Vinicius said.
The statement came a day after the match against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium was stopped for 10 minutes after the 22-year-old Brazilian striker pointed out fans who he said were hurling racist comments at him.
"The problem is very serious, and press releases don't work anymore. Neither does blaming me to justify criminal acts," he added.
Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro's iconic landmark, had its lights switched off on Monday night in a show of solidarity for the Real Madrid forward.
Vinicius, Real Madrid's second top scorer this season in all competitions (23) behind Karim Benzema (29), had previously described Spain as a "country of racists" after the match against Valencia on Sunday.
That provoked a response from LaLiga President Javier Tebas, who said on Twitter that enough was being done and that Vinicius should inform himself "before you criticise and slander LaLiga".
"The first thing is to recognise that we have a problem in our country," Rubiales said at a press conference in Madrid on Monday. It is "a serious problem that also stains an entire team, an entire fan base, an entire club, an entire country".
The Brazilian government on Monday summoned the Spanish ambassador to explain the incident, and its foreign ministry said in a statement that after "yet another inadmissible episode" it had concluded that effective measures had not been taken by the Spanish authorities to prevent such acts of racism.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter there was "zero tolerance for racism in football".
"Sport is founded on the values of tolerance and respect. Hatred and xenophobia should have no place in our football and in our society," Sanchez added.
Spain's Sports Council previously said in a statement that it would study footage of the game to single out any perpetrators for prosecution.
Videos posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed hundreds of Valencia fans singing "Vinicius is a monkey" as the Real Madrid bus arrived at the stadium before the match.
"I am sorry for those Spaniards who disagree but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists," Vinicius Jr wrote on Twitter.
Rubiales labelled Tebas's comments "irresponsible."
"Probably Vinicius is more right than we think and we all need to do more about racism," Rubiales said.