MADRID—With a goal and a dance, Real Madrid’s young Brazilian forwards made a statement against racism in soccer this weekend.
With their samba-like moves after a goal in the derby against Atlético Madrid on Sunday, Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior made it clear they are not backing down from the racist language from their critics or by the racist chants from the opposing fans.
“Dance wherever you want,” Vinícius wrote on Twitter in a message directed at Rodrygo after Madrid’s 2-1 win at Atlético in the Spanish league.
“White and BLACK dance,” Rodrygo posted not long afterward, along with the photo of the young Brazilians celebrating together.
Rodrygo had just scored Madrid’s first goal in a derby whose buildup had been surrounded by controversy over Vinícius’s recent goal celebrations.
Vinícius, who is Black, was upset when a guest on a television sports talk show used racist language to criticize his dances. The 22-year-old Brazilian, who is set to make it to his first World Cup in November, said his actions on the field were “being criminalized,” and that his success as a Black Brazilian man in Europe was “annoying” to some.
The controversy continued just before Sunday’s match as online videos showed some Atlético fans outside the Metropolitano Stadium chanting “Vinícius is a monkey.”
“This (derby) was even more special because of everything that happened during the week, and we answered on the field,” Rodrygo said.
Some Atlético fans threw objects toward Rodrygo and Vinícius as they celebrated the goal near one of the corner flags.
The talk show where Vinícius was criticized for “acting like a monkey” had apologized by saying the expression was “unfortunate” but not racist, because it said those words are normally used in Spain to talk about someone doing “silly” things.
Madrid had issued a statement supporting Vinícius and condemning racism, and coach Carlo Ancelotti also defended Vinícius, although he also contradicted the Brazilian by saying he didn’t think there was that type of racism in Spain.
It wasn’t the first time Vinícius was subjected to racist taunts, though. It happened last year during a “clásico” against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
There were also cases against other players, including Athletic Bilbao’s Iñaki Williams.
Among those who came out to publicly support Vinícius was Pelé and current Brazil forward Neymar, who told Vinícius to “keep dancing.”
The duo’s celebration on Sunday was widely shared online and was praised by many in Brazil and Latin America. Some players in Europe also showed their appreciation.
There will certainly be more of the same going forward.
“I repeat it to you racist: I will not stop dancing,” Vinícius said. “Whether at the Sambódromo, at the Bernabéu or wherever.”
With the win over Atlético, Madrid remained the only perfect team to start the season in the top five European leagues.
“We wanted a start like this before the international break,” Ancelotti said. “It’s an unusual season because of the World Cup and nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Things can change very quickly.”
Madrid is being closely followed by a revamped Barcelona team, which has won five straight after opening with a home draw against Rayo Vallecano.
The only other Spanish team with at least five wins is Real Betis, which defeated Girona 2-1 at home on Sunday.
Betis rival Sevilla—fourth last season behind Atlético, Barcelona and Madrid—is struggling with only one win, while Atlético has three victories from its six matches.
Almería, Valladolid, Cádiz, Espanyol and winless Elche are the teams closest to the bottom of the standings.
Image credits: AP