When a Brazilian player begins to stand out as a youngster in his country, he enters the radar of European clubs. An auction then begins, with commission representatives involved, to secure the signing of the (always expected) new pearl of football. All those involved want that boy to end up being the new Pelé or, at least, a Romario, a Rivaldo, a Ronaldinho or a Ronaldo (it is not mandatory, in any case, that he must have a name that begins with "R"). This is not always the case and many of them end up being forgotten or playing in the so-called minor leagues.
Vinícius Junior ended up joining Real Madrid, with all that media projection implies. He is a player with character (a trickster, some will say), skilful, a rising star who leaves no one indifferent when he steps on the pitch. And, for a few days, they have elevated him (and he has set himself up) in a kind of Black Power messiah against a country of racists. "I am ready to suffer more so that future generations do not experience situations like this," he stated, as if they were about to throw him into the lion's den.
Saying that Spain is a racist country because three Valencia fans (already arrested) have insulted the color of Vinícius's skin is like saying that we are all uncivil because someone throws an empty water bottle onto the field when a rival player goes to take a corner Also, more than one might wonder why they only insulted Vini with racist insults if there are other black players at Real Madrid and they didn't have this problem.
In this sense, it is noteworthy that the Franco-Guinean central defender of Valencia, Mouctar Diakhaby, gave up posing behind the banner against racism that the players of Mallorca and the Valencian club displayed before the start of the game they played last Thursday. Because? Because two seasons ago he denounced having been the victim of a racist insult and the League ignored him, something that has not happened with Vinícius.
And, now, another question for reflection: Is Spain a violent country because the basketball players from Madrid and Partizan got into a fistfight in their recent confrontation in the Euroleague? No, right?... The show they put on was pitiful, but even one of these two teams ended up winning the competition shortly after.
The racist incident against Vinícius has come in the middle of the electoral campaign. Even the Government has had to intervene in the face of the official protest from Brazil (there are no racist people in this South American country? Are you sure?). It's bad that there are intolerant individuals or people with such little education as to insult a player because of the color of his skin, but at least it's good that this debate, dealing with such a charismatic Real Madrid player, has been magnified to the point invite all Spaniards to look in the mirror. But we must bear in mind that there are many black people who suffer from racism, every day, with the aggravating circumstance that they are not rich and famous and, therefore, they must bear it from (almost) anonymity.
At the time, Samuel Eto'o wanted to leave the field, in a Barça match at La Romareda, due to the racist insults he was given. A compatriot of his, the goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, suffered racism several times. Bananas were thrown at another Brazilian, Dani Alves, and his reaction was to peel one and eat it. Iñaki Williams, from Athletic Bilbao, was also a victim of racism and gave rise to the first case opened for this type of incident in Spanish professional football, in 2020.
Eto'o even received an award for his work against racism. And it is that, although it might seem unbelievable due to the commotion that has been created these days, Vini is not the first player to suffer racism on a football field and, unfortunately, he will not be the last either. Isn't the problem trivialized when there are those who want to turn this footballer into a kind of new Malcolm X?
Precisely, the story of another Malcolm, without X, will help us answer these questions and also these others: What if Vladimir Putin had signed Vinícius? What if he had played for Zenit Saint Petersburg instead of Real Madrid? Well, anyway, now he would be a Russian national...
Putin has criticized Zenit in the past for not having enough Russian players in its starting lineup for European matches (in the domestic league he is more constrained by rules on the mandatory number of Russian players). In addition to the Putinian verbiage, the St. Petersburg club apparently has a part of its fans that does not really like having outsiders in its ranks.
In August 2019, Zenit Saint Petersburg announced the signing of Brazilian footballer Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira, who came from Barça. He signed for five seasons. The transfer was for 40 million euros, plus another 5 million in variables. By then, Malcom was 22 years old and went on to earn more than 6 million euros per season, which was double the salary of the highest-earning Russian players, such as Dzyuba or Smolov.
Well, in the Brazilian's first game at the Gazprom Arena, this banner could be read: "Thanks to the board for their loyalty to traditions." A racist message? According to the local press, the most radical fans of the Russian club are known for their rejection in the past of the signing of black footballers, like years before with the also Brazilian Hulk or the Belgian Witsel. The directive said that the banner had been "misinterpreted", but the fact is that Malcom could also be as X as Vinícius.
Now, in an unexpected turn of events, in February 2023 Zenit announced that Malcom and Claudinho had the OK to obtain Russian nationality (one in 2024 and the other in 2026), although having a passport is one thing and another defend the colors of the national team of the country of Rus.
But, if this were to materialize, the two Brazilians (blacks) could become part of the calls of the selector Valeri Karpin in the future. How does a soccer player go from being criticized by his fans for being a foreigner and black to having the chance to play for the national team of the host country?
Andrey Arshavin, a former Russian player for Arsenal, was "against naturalization" because, in his opinion, only "Russians should play for Russia, not Brazilians and people of other nationalities with Russian passports."
But Malcom, who went unnoticed at Barça, is the star of Zenit, the Russian champion. Is that what has made Putin change his mind to the point of favoring two (black) Brazilians having the chance to defend the colors of Russia in the future? Would Vinícius have ended up playing in the Russian national jersey if he had signed for Zenit and not for Real Madrid?...
Soccer is less and less a sport and more a pure business and a mere spectacle to distract citizens from their (many) daily problems. This was not said by Vinícius, but by the real Malcolm X: "You can't have capitalism without racism."