Valencia head coach Ruben Baraja has said his club will fight back against “smears” after they were handed a five-game partial stadium closure and hefty fine following the racist abuse aimed at Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior.
Speaking at a press conference, Baraja stressed he was “absolutely against racism”, but echoed Valencia’s earlier claim that the sanction was “unfair and disproportionate”, and added: “I am not going to allow the Valencia CF fans and Mestalla to be smeared with labels that do not represent us.
“Just as a player rightly fights back against insults and I support that with all my might, we as a club and a fanbase rebel against those who, during the days since the game, have accused us of being what we are not.”
🗨️ @RubenBaraja's message against racism
— Valencia CF (@valenciacf_en) May 24, 2023
Vinicius threatened to leave the pitch in the second half of Sunday’s LaLiga match at the Mestalla after being subjected to alleged monkey chants from the crowd and Real Madrid, who said the incident constituted a “hate crime”, filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office.
In response, Valencia have been ordered to shut the Mario Kempes south stand, where the alleged abuse happened, for five matches and have also been fined €45,000 by the Spanish football federation (RFEF).
Reacting to that sanction, Valencia said in a strongly worded statement on Tuesday evening: “Valencia CF wishes to show its total disagreement and indignation at the unfair and disproportionate penalty imposed by the competition committee on the club with the closure of the stand for five games.
COMUNICADO OFICIAL | RESPETO POR NUESTRA AFICIÓN
— Valencia CF (@valenciacf) May 23, 2023
“Valencia CF wants to publicly denounce that in this resolution of the RFEF competition committee they show evidence that contradicts what the national police and LaLiga say.
“In addition, this sanction is based on evidence that the club has not been able to see and without giving us a hearing.
“Valencia CF has condemned, condemns and will condemn in the most energetic way any act of racism or violence. These behaviours have no place in football or in society and we will continue to act in the most forceful way to eradicate this scourge.
“For this reason, Valencia CF is collaborating from the first minute with the police and all relevant authorities to clarify the events that occurred last Sunday.
“In addition, it has applied the maximum possible sanction with the expulsion for life from our stadium to the fans that the police have identified for their racist behaviour.
“For this reason we consider that penalising and depriving all the fans who were not involved in these unfortunate incidents from seeing their team is a totally disproportionate, unfair and unprecedented measure against which we will fight.
“The fight against racism requires the real commitment of all the parties involved without using it as a pretext to incur serious injustices.
“Valencia CF will appeal to the last instance the closure of the stand, a sanction that it considers totally unfair and one more offence in the latest disciplinary decisions that have been taken against the club. Valencia CF asks for the utmost respect and rigour for our institution and fans.”
In announcing the punishment against Valencia, the RFEF said in a statement: “The competition committee has sanctioned Valencia CF with the partial closure of the Mestalla stadium for five matches, more specifically the Mario Kempes south stand, following the events that occurred during the league match between the local team and Real Madrid CF.
“It is considered proven that, as reflected by the referee in his minutes, there were racist shouts at Vinicius, a Real Madrid CF player, during the aforementioned match, altering the normal course of the match and considering the infractions very serious.”
LaLiga players and officials called for racism to be tackled in Spain in the wake of Sunday’s match.
Before Tuesday night’s games between Real Valladolid and Barcelona, and Celta Vigo and Girona, players from both sides, as well as the match officials, stood behind banners which read ‘Racism, out of football’.
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) May 23, 2023
LaLiga shared a pre-match clip from the Celta-Girona game on its official Twitter account with the hashtag #JUNTOSContraElRacismo (#TOGETHERagainstRacism).
The footage also showed a supporter holding up a placard with ‘No Al Racismo’ (No to Racism) written on it.
There were similar sentiments at the Valladolid-Barcelona game as fans showed their support for Brazil international Vinicius.
Barcelona forward Raphinha removed his shirt when substituted to show a message which read: “As long as the colour of the skin is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war.”
Vinicius was not included in Real’s 23-man squad for Wednesday night’s LaLiga match against Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabeu.
The forward’s red card against Valencia had been rescinded by the RFEF, but the 22-year-old did not train on Tuesday, with Real coach Carlo Ancelotti saying the winger had some discomfort in his knee.