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Spain Cuffs Four Men for Vinicius Effigy

FILE: Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior gestures towards a fan during the match between Real Madrid and Valencia on May 21, 2023.
FILE: Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior gestures towards a fan during the match between Real Madrid and Valencia on May 21, 2023.

MADRID — Spanish police say four men suspected of hanging an effigy of Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior off a bridge in Madrid in January were arrested. This comes two days after the latest case of racial abuse against the Brazilian in a game against Valencia, where three persons were arrested.

The effigy was hanged the morning of a match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Along with it was a banner with the words “Madrid hates Real.”

The perpetrators used a black figure with Vinícius’ name on it, tied a rope around its neck and hanged it from an overpass while still dark in the Spanish capital.

Police said three of those arrested belonged to one of Atletico's fan groups, and the other was a follower of the group. Some had prior bookings with police for other crimes.

The hate message on the banner is often used by Atletico’s ultras, though at the time they denied being responsible for the display.

Spanish media said police had used security cameras to identify the perpetrators but no action had been taken until now. Police did not say if the timing of the arrests had to do with the widespread attention being received by the latest abuse against Vinícius on Sunday.

Spain has been criticized worldwide for its lack of action in racism cases in football. Brazilian government officials, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had publicly expressed their concerns.

Vinícius has been subjected to repeated racist taunts in Spain, especially this season after he began celebrating his goals by dancing

The May 21 match against Valencia was temporarily stopped after Vinícius said a fan behind one of the goals called him a monkey and made monkey gestures toward him. Vinícius considered leaving the field but eventually continued playing.

The Brazilian received support from officials and athletes around the world and heavily criticized Spanish soccer for not doing more to stop racism.

The lights at the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were turned off Monday night in a show of solidarity for Vinícius.

“It’s an action of solidarity that is moving,” Vinícius said on Twitter. “But more than everything, what I want is to inspire and bring more light to our fight.”