Spanish police detained four men on Tuesday in connection with an incident in which an effigy representing Brazilian soccer star Vinicius Jr was hung from a bridge in January, a day after a senior official said Spanish football had a racism problem.
A hate crime investigation was opened after the effigy wearing winger Vinicius Jr’s No. 20 shirt was hung from a bridge in front of the training ground of Real Madrid, the player’s team, along with a 16-metre red and white banner, the colours of rival team Atletico Madrid, that read “Madrid hates Real”.
The arrests come a day after football federation chief Luis Rubiales said Spanish soccer has a racism problem, following a race-crime complaint lodged by Real Madrid.
After racial slurs were aimed at the Real Madrid player during a Spanish league match on Sunday, Vinicius Jr, in a social media post, called the racist abuse “inhuman” and asked sponsors and broadcasters to hold LaLiga accountable.
The four men could be responsible for an alleged hate crime and three of them are active members of “a radical group of fans of a Madrid club”, police said. Those three members were previously identified during matches and qualified as “high risk” to help prevent violence in sport, they said.
La Liga, the country’s top football league, is under pressure to do more to combat racism after the Brazilian president, FIFA, and sporting stars such as France forward Kylian Mbappe, Rio Ferdinand and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton voiced support for Vinicius.
The effigy incident took place before Real hosted Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals in late January.
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