Willian: Vinicius deserves to be 'celebrated, not tolerated'

By Sports Desk May 24, 2023

Willian has suggested Vinicius Junior may not feel it is worthwhile to stay at Real Madrid after receiving racist abuse, saying the Brazil winger should be "celebrated, not tolerated".

Vinicius was the victim of racist abuse from some Valencia supporters during Madrid's 1-0 defeat at Mestalla Stadium on Sunday.

The Brazil international was subsequently sent off – a red card that has since been rescinded – while LaLiga president Javier Tebas caused upset with his reaction to the incident.

Tebas responded to a tweet by Vinicius, writing: "Before you criticise and insult LaLiga, you need to inform yourself well, Vini Jr. Don't let yourself be manipulated."

LaLiga's chief has now apologised for his comments, though Willian believes his fellow Brazilian Vinicius would be within his rights to consider whether his future remains in Spain.

"This is a tough question," Fulham playmaker Willian said in an exclusive interview with Stats Perform. 

"Only he can answer what he is feeling. I see him going through this and I get a feeling that is a mixture of anger and sadness, all at the same time, for seeing this situation.

"It's up to each one of us. If he sees that it's worth it to keep being there, if he has all the support from the club, from the Spanish federation, it's worth persisting. But if you see that people don't care about the situation, it might be worth going to another place where you are celebrated, not tolerated.

"I always say this: you have to be where you are celebrated and not tolerated. That is what I believe.

"But Vini is making beautiful history at Real Madrid and has everything to continue making history there. I hope this situation is resolved and the people who do this are punished each time."

Madrid reported the incident to the Spanish prosecutor's office as a hate crime, and three arrests have subsequently been made.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has ordered a partial closure of Valencia's stadium for five matches, and Willian hopes that punishment will be a turning point in the battle against racism.

He added: "I hope so. I hope this can be ahead of money, ahead of trophies, an issue like this, a situation like this is far more important than anything else. I hope the authorities, the federations, can take real action from now on.

"We are in 2023 and we see this happening. It's depressing. It's exhausting. You enter the pitch to play football, to give joy to the fans, and you end up being insulted, and that is very sad. I hope this can end, end once and for all in football, in everyday life, wherever.

"People need to know that we are all equal, there is no difference because of race or colour."

Vinicius did not play for Madrid against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, watching on from the stands as his compatriot Rodrygo scored a late winner.

The Madrid fans showed their support for the 22-year-old with banners and a minute's applause.

Willian, who was the recipient of threats during his spell with Corinthians last year, believes the English Football Association (FA) set a good example for other federations to follow when it comes to tackling racism, but more must be done.

"There is [racism] everywhere," he said. "Here in England, it might happen, but I have never seen, I have never witnessed a situation like the one that has been happening with Vini in Spain.

"In Italy, it happens sometimes too. Here in England, it is more difficult because I think the FA is very strict about these things. I am sure that if this happens here, they will ban the fan immediately, the federation can punish the club, and they can leave them without fans, but it is a complicated situation.

"I've said it many times: while the authorities don't do what has to be done, it's no use. We players do what we can, which is to expose, post on social media, and talk about it in interviews. But we can't punish.

"We players have to simply get on the pitch and keep playing, keep going to training. Those who can punish often don't do what has to be done. We need to have a real rigorous punishment and not just keep running campaigns like 'no to racism' or something like that and that's it.

"I hope that more and more fans can be punished or that whoever does this will be punished."

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