Valencia and the return of Vinícius Jr

Last season, Real Madrid's visit to Valencia was marked by an episode of racism against Brazilian winger Vinícius Júnior, something that José Gayà is sure will not happen again.

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On Saturday, Real Madrid is set to visit Valencia, marking a significant return for Vinícius Júnior to the Mestalla stadium a venue where he previously faced racist insults from the home fans during a LaLiga match in May 2023.

The incident not only saw Vinícius Júnior being sent off but also led to the Spanish League overturning the punishment subsequently.

The fallout from this unfortunate event was considerable. Valencia faced a sanction of a five-game stadium ban to be served behind closed doors, a penalty aimed at addressing the unacceptable behavior exhibited by a segment of their fan base. In a decisive move, the club also expelled all fans found guilty of directing racist insults at the Brazilian winger, demonstrating a firm stance against racism.

In the aftermath of these events, José Gayà, the captain of Valencia, made a public assurance that such an incident would not recur. “This is my tenth season, and Mestalla has always respected opponents. What we experienced last year was an act of a minority. There were three, four, ten, however many, but very few people. Our fans were unfairly judged, and since I’ve been here, our stand has been exemplary, and I’m sure it will be again,” he stated in a conversation with Movistar+.

The incident had escalated to a point where Vinícius Jr. accused “the entire Mestalla” of racial abuse during the contentious match against Real Madrid, a claim that led Valencia to criticize the generalization of the behavior of a few fans as representative of their entire supporter base.

As Real Madrid, currently leading LaLiga with 65 points six points ahead of Girona in second place prepares to face ninth-placed Valencia, which has accumulated 36 points, in the 27th round of the championship this Saturday at 8:00 PM, the focus is not only on the game but also on the broader implications of last year’s incident. The match at Mestalla thus becomes a significant moment for both clubs, as they look to move past the controversies of the previous season and focus on the competition on the field.

Updated: 03:12, 29 Feb 2024

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