Tue. May 28th, 2024

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr “can’t fight racism alone” in Spain, according to a player who was banned after climbing into the stands to confront a supporter about alleged abuse.

Vinicius was among those who spoke out in support of Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Kane Sarr, who was sent off following the incident during a Spanish third-tier league game.

The Brazilian broke down in tears last month while discussing the toll racist abuse in Spanish stadiums has had on him.

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti says he has “never seen a player persecuted” like the 23-year-old.

“Vinicius is doing incredible work regarding racism in Spain. I want to thank him,” Sarr told Newsday on the World Service.

“If every player like him took a stand, I’m not saying racism would stop but it’s going to be slowly erased. It would be less of a topic.

“He’s doing a remarkable job.”

How Vinicius Jr is leading football’s fight against racism

Vinicius posted on social media in support of Sarr and his Rayo Majadahonda team-mates, who walked off the pitch in a show of solidarity during last month’s game against Sestao River, refusing to return.

“Racists must be exposed and matches cannot continue with them in the stands,” Vinicius said.

“We will only have victory when the racists leave the stadiums and go straight to jail, the place they deserve.”

Sarr was “grateful” to have the backing of a player who had 10 incidents of racial abuse against him reported to prosecutors by La Liga last season.

“He’s a generous man who knows what he wants,” Sarr, 23, said. “But one person can’t fight racism alone. He needs support.

“Racism has no place in the world and in the world of soccer.”

Suspension after confrontation ‘not fair’
A picture of Cheikh Kane Sarr

Cheikh Kane Sarr was forced to sit out two league games this month after confronting a fan about alleged racial abuse

Sarr does not think Spanish football is serious about combatting racism, given how his case was handled.

Following the incident in Sestao on 30 March, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) handed him a two-match ban and a 600 euro ($645, £510) fine – a punishment Sarr says is “not fair”.

Rayo Majadahonda were given an automatic 3-0 defeat, deducted three points and fined 3,006 euros ($3,230, £2,575) for not completing the match.

“If you’re ready to fight sufficiently against racism, you have to protect [the victim] and give him power,” said Sarr.

“If you sanction him, you’re not defending the cause.

“You have to punish the other team or the person in the stand throwing racist abuse.

“If I was playing for Real Madrid, I don’t think I would have been punished. Yes, the [players] are better known, but the penalties should be the same.”

Sestao denied that there were any racist chants, external at the match, but the Basque club were also sanctioned by the RFEF with a stadium closure and a fine.

Sarr ‘wanted video to go viral’
Players and officials pose for a photograph with a banner with a message against racism and in support of the goalkeeper Cheikh Kane Sarr of Rayo Majadahonda prior to the Primera RFEF Group 1 match between Rayo Majadahonda and SD Ponferradina

Match officials and players from Rayo Majadahonda and opponents SD Ponferradina posed with an anti-racism banner supporting Sarr on 6 April

Rayo Majadahonda were losing 2-1 when Sarr left the pitch in the 83rd minute.

“An ultra in the stands came down and started insulting me,” he explained.

“If it was a youngster – a child at best – maybe I could understand, but here it was, an old man throwing insults.

“As a player who comes to Europe to play, who tries to feed his family back in Africa, it’s just very hurtful.”

Sarr hoped his actions would expose the perpetrator to a wider audience and highlight the racism.

“I didn’t want to be aggressive or violent,” he said.

“I just wanted to find him because I wanted the video to go around [and] be viral on social media, so people could see what is happening.”

The RFEF judged Sarr’s reaction to be “contrary to good sporting order” but said there were “mitigating circumstances” when deciding on the length of his ban because of “justified sufficient provocation, motivated by the racist insults received”.

Sestao were ordered to play two home games behind closed doors and were fined 6,001 euros ($6,440, £5,140) for “failing to act diligently or co-operate in the repression of violent, racist, xenophobic or intolerant behaviour”.

Sarr says he has previously experienced racism playing in Spain but this abuse was on a different level.

“Two years ago, a fan in the stand was making gestures but at the time it made me laugh.

“This time I just couldn’t cope with it because it was just pure racism. It’s the first time in my life I can really say I’ve been the victim.”

‘If it happens again I’ll leave the pitch’
Rayo Majadahonda goalkeeper Cheikh Kane Sarr

Sarr has previously had spells in Spain with Gimnastic, Real Oviedo Vetusta, Recreativo Granada and CD Castellon

Sarr believes the reaction of his team-mates was “remarkable”.

“It’s the first time in Spain that a team has refused to continue playing,” he claimed.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team, the president, the staff, because it touched me deeply.”

Rayo Majadahonda expressed their “deep concern and disagreement”, external with “the lack of sensitivity shown” when Sarr was sent off.

But the club decided not to appeal their goalkeeper’s ban and described the sanction handed to the club as “harsh”., external

Sarr says he would react differently in future – but any racism would still take its toll.

“I’ve learned a lot from this, but I don’t know how I would cope with it again,” he explained.

“I’m obviously not going to jump in the stands again. But I will stop playing. I’ll leave the pitch because racism is not acceptable.

“Football should be something that unites people. We should be a family.”

By Joy

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