Vinicius Jr has been a menacing winger for Real Madrid, but the Brazilian is in the news for being on the receiving end of a comment that’s been perceived as racist. The 22-year-old’s dance celebration was criticized by Pedro Bravo, head of the Spanish Football Agents’ Association (AEAF).

Appearing on one of Spain’s leading football tv programs, Chiringuito Show, he told the Los Blancos forward to stop celebrating his goals with dance moves, comparing his behaviour to that of a monkey. 

The comment has touched a nerve with the Brazilian and fellow footballers from the South American nation, who’ve often faced the butt of racism in European football. Vinicius Jr was quick to hit back at the comment, in a long Instagram post, saying “They say that happiness bothers. The happiness of a victorious black Brazilian in Europe bothers much more.” 

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He added, “But my desire to win, my smile and the sparkle in my eyes are much bigger than that. You can’t even imagine it. I was a victim of a xenophobic and racist comment. But none of that started yesterday.”

The youngster also defended his choice to dance, saying, “They belong to Ronaldinho, Neymar, [Lucas] Paqueta, [Antoine] Griezmann, Joao Felix, Matheus Cunha… they belong to Brazilian funk and samba artists, reggaeton singers, and black Americans. Those are dances to celebrate the cultural diversity of the world. Accept it, respect it. I’m not going to stop.”

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A post shared by Vinicius Jr. ⚡️🇧🇷 (@vinijr)

Bravo later clarified on Twitter that he’d used the “monkey” expression to convey that Vinicius Jr was engaged in “stupid things”, and there was no racist connotation to his comment. 

“I want to clarify that the expression ‘playing the monkey’ that I have misused to qualify Vinicius’ goal celebration dance was done metaphorically”, he said. 

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However, several Brazilian footballers, including Pele and Neymar have spoken out in support of the young Madridista – both championing inclusivity in football. 

Real Madrid has also issued a statement denouncing the racist comment and threatening legal action against anyone who makes such comments against the club’s players. As this fracas plays out, Los Blancos prepare for the hotly anticipated Madrid derby against Atletico, and the opposite team captain, Koke, has warned of trouble if Vinicius does the dance celebration in Real Madrid’s away fixture. However, Atletico’s captain has clearly stated that while fans might get riled up, a player is free to celebrate in whatever way they choose.