Pele, Neymar and other big names in Brazilian football have voiced outrage over a Spanish agent’s allegedly racist comments on Brazil and Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior, whom he urged to stop “acting like a monkey.”
Pedro Bravo, the head of the Spanish Football Agents’ Association (AEAF), made the comment on Thursday on the “Chiringuito Show,” one of Spain’s top football TV programmes, telling the 22-year-old player to stop celebrating his goals with his trademark dance moves.
The remarks touched a nerve in Brazil, where black players have been heckled with racist taunts by fans mimicking monkeys.
“Football is joy. It’s a dance,” living legend Pele wrote on Instagram.
“Although unfortunately, racism still exists, we will not allow that to stop us from continuing to smile. And we will continue to fight racism every day in this way: fighting for our right to be happy and respected.”
Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar tweeted “BAILA VINI JR” –– Portuguese for “dance” –– echoing a hashtag, #BailaViniJr, that was the top trending topic on Twitter in Brazil.
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBC) meanwhile expressed its “solidarity” with the player in a statement, condemning the “racist statements.”
The player later took to Twitter to thank the fans and other football players for showing him support, saying “I will not stop,” referring to his dance celebration.
Real Madrid defends player
Real Madrid said in the statement on Friday that it “rejects all types of racist and xenophobic expression and behaviour in soccer, sports and life in general, such as the regrettable and unfortunate comments in recent hours directed toward our player Vinicius Junior.”
The Spanish football club added it would take legal action against anyone who used racist language against its player.
Bravo apologised on Twitter, saying he had “badly used the expression… in a metaphorical way to mean ‘fooling around.'”
The debate regarding Vinicius’ goal celebrations was sparked after Atletico Madrid’s Koke Resurreccion said “there could be trouble” if the Madrid forward dances after a goal on Sunday in the Madrid derby to be played at Atletico’s stadium.