Vinicius Jr earns a unique honour that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo have ever received

Vinicius Jr, who has been the face of Real Madrid for the past couple of years, is an exceptional player. Ever since his arrival from Brazil, the winger has become a fan favourite in the few years he has been in the Spanish capital.

But as much as he makes an impact by scoring and providing wonderful goals and assists for Los Blancos, he also plays a part in being a model citizen by standing up for just causes.

What award did Vinicius Jr receive?

Following Pele’s footsteps, Vinicius Jr has recently become a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN. His dedication to societal justice has always been a big part of him, as he has always vehemently fought prejudice, racism and discrimination. His collaboration with FIFA and Brazil in the “Racism, don’t pretend you don’t see it” campaign also earned him the prestigious 2023 Socrates Award, presented at last year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony—football’s leading awards night.

“It’s an achievement and a duty which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Of course, I want to be recognised as a great player, but also as a citizen who tried to make a difference,” he said at a ceremony at the club’s training ground in Madrid.

The Director-General of UN Education, Ms. Azoulay, emphasized that the Brazil national team regular was “not only an outstanding football player but also a passionate advocate for equal access to education.”

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Students at the Instituto Vini Jr (via Instituto Vini Jr, Instagram)

In 2021, he established the “Instituto Viní Jr.”, whose aim is to help underprivileged Brazilian children and teenagers by reintegrating them back into the education system. The institute utilizes sports values to inspire students from diverse backgrounds to pursue education. He has also received support from his country’s president in his efforts to curb racism.

La Liga’s treatment of Vinicius Jr angers soccer fans

Vinicius Jr is one of the biggest stars of not only Real Madrid but also La Liga itself. Yet, he has been subject to incessant racist chants throughout his time in Spain. In the 2022–23 season alone, Vinicius counted 10 separate occasions of him being racially abused.

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Vinicius Jr has been subject to intense racism in Spain (via The Athletic)

Even as recently as October 2023, Vinicius was racially abused in Real Madrid’s match against Sevilla. The matter escalated, as Vinicius Jr said that “La Liga today belongs to racists.” These comments sparked a huge controversy surrounding racism in Spain. In response to Vinicius, La Liga president Javier Tebas remarked on X (formerly Twitter), “Before you criticise and insult La Liga, you need to inform yourself well, Vini Jr. Don’t let yourself be manipulated”.

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La Liga President Javier Tebas was condemned after his comments against Vinicius Jr (via The Independent)

Tebas’ comments were met with condemnation, with Vinicius accusing him of attacking him, to which he apologised, “I did not want to attack Vinicius, but if most people understood it that way, I need to apologise. It was not my intention, I expressed myself badly, at a bad time.”

La Liga’s inaction to combat racism has often been highlighted in the past, and the belief that the league is inherently racist was only increased by Tebas’ comments.

Racism in football, or any sphere of life for that matter, is abhorrent and condemnable, yet it has persisted for several years across several leagues. Raheem Sterling, Mario Balotelli, and Bukayo Saka are all accomplished players who have played in the best of leagues, yet they have all been victims of racial abuse. More recently, AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan left the pitch midway after being racially abused in a Seria A match against Udinese.

FIFA recently suggested a newer punishment for incidents of racial abuse: automatic forfeits, which would be stricter than the current stadium bans and fines that clubs generally pay for such incidents. But what could be the ultimate solution to completely eradicating racism in football? Make sure to tell us what you think in the comments.


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