BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior called out the haters of his goal celebrations as racist and insisted he will keep on dancing.
Spanish sports talk shows have been discussing the appropriateness of his celebrations, and a commentator on television said he should stop “doing the monkey.”
Real Madrid criticized the comment on Friday, and Vinicius issued a video statement in Portuguese on Saturday in which the Brazilian eloquently explained that dancing forms part of his cultural expression, and cited other soccer players, both Black and white, who also have danced after scoring.
“I will repeat it for you, racist: I am not going to stop dancing,” Vinícius said.
“I was victim of xenophobia and racism in a single declaration, but none of this began yesterday,” Vinícius said over freeze frames of social media posts using racist language to insult him.
The controversy also comes in the buildup to Sunday’s always hotly contested Spanish capital derby in which Real Madrid visits Atlético Madrid. This week, Atlético captain Koke Resurrección, when asked what would happen if Vinícius danced after scoring, responded “There will be trouble.”
Koke appeared to make the comment in jest, but it has been widely commented on. Brazil star Neymar chimed in on social media by tweeting, “Dance Vini Jr.”
In his video, Vinícius listed players, including Atlético’s Antoine Griezmann, who is white, over images of them dancing to celebrate goals.
“For weeks my dancing has been criminalized, dances that are not mine, but rather of Ronaldinho, Neymar, Paquetá, Pogba, Matheus Cunha, Griezmann and João Félix,” he said. “They are dances of Brazilian artists, of Latino singers and reggaeton artists, and Black Americans. They are dances to celebrate the cultural diversity of the world. Accept them. Respect them. I won’t stop.”
The 22-year-old Vinícius emerged as one of the Spanish league’s best players last year, becoming a perfect attack partner for Karim Benzema. He helped Madrid win the Spanish league and the European Cup, including scoring the goal to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final.
He has scored five times already this season.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was sure his player was focused on playing, despite the noise.
“The player’s response was very good. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him,” Ancelotti said. “He’s playing with the joy and quality that he possesses. I don’t give him any advice because I’m not his dad or his brother. I’m his coach.”