La Liga has been caught in a storm in recent days, with the league facing heavy backlash over the persistent racist abuse suffered by Real Madrid's Vinicius Jr.
The Brazilian has been the focus of racially motivated chants on a number of occasions during his time in Spain, most recently during a game at Valencia last weekend.
A number of high profile figures in the game have voiced their support for the player in light of that incident, with seven individuals arrested as a result of a police investigation. Valencia were also fined €45,000 and will have a section of their stadium closed for the next five games, with La Liga president Javier Tebas apologising for comments he made in aftermath of the game.
It is hoped that this incident will bring about real change to what has been a long running issue in Spanish football.
However, these comments suggest that there is still a long way to go.
Pepe Reina criticised for comments about Vinicius Jr incident
Former Spain and Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been asked about his opinion on the abuse suffered by Vinicius Jr, with his answer pointing towards a larger issue still present in Spanish football
Speaking to Marca, the now Villarreal goalkeeper suggested that the Real Madrid player courted abuse due to his behaviour on the pitch.
First and foremost, any racist behaviour must be stopped. But then, I do not believe that there is racism in all the stadiums in Spain or that an entire stadium is racist.
Those four, eight or one thousand who called Vinicius a 'monkey' must be condemned. It is sad that this happens.
Having said that, I see that sometimes it's not just racism, it's not that a fan is racist or not, but rather that they take it out on a specific player, because he can talk too much at one point.
As a general reflection, the less you provoke the stands, the less you provoke the rivals and the less you protest to the referee, the more respect you will have from everyone.
I think he [Vinicius] must be more mature in his behaviour, in having more respect for his rivals. It can't be that every game away from home is a war for him...
Spain is not racist, or at least not more racist than other countries, although there are the racist attitudes of some fools.
Incredibly poor comments.
As you might imagine, they have not gone down well.
Oh hey it's a reminder that Pepe Reina is an outspoken supporter Spain's far right ethnonationalist party and seems like a thoroughly terrible human being. https://t.co/MekqkodayM
— The Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) May 25, 2023
Extremely disappointing to hear this from Pepe Reina - there's absolutely no excuse or justification for racism https://t.co/DqWdMQygDV
— Anfield Agenda (@AnfieldAgenda) May 25, 2023
Pepe Reina tried to formulate a disgusting argument deserves to be consigned to the bin.
There is NO provocation that can ever justify racist abuse anywhere in society.
— Joe Hardy 🇺🇦 🇪🇺♿️🐟 #RightToLove FBPE 💙 (@BlokeOnWheels) May 25, 2023
I find this a curious point to raise especially when it is in the context of the racial abuse Vini has suffered.
Does Pepe Reina freely give this advice to other young players or is it just a matter of "yeah the racism is bad but..."
Clowns coming out of the woodwork. https://t.co/JMuyzI0Jyr
— Farinho (@Farinho_10) May 25, 2023
To add context, Pepe Reina supports the Spanish far right
— Manuel (@leunaM3003) May 25, 2023
Pepe Reina is part of the problem. https://t.co/nFySpXQCNm
— Chris (@Nyerider) May 25, 2023
Pepe Reina - give your head a wobble
— Sanjay Bhandari (@SanjayKickItOut) May 25, 2023
Pepe Reina thinks not being assailed with racist abuse is something that young Black footballers have to “earn” by behaving in a manner that the abusers deem respectful and proper. Gotcha 👍🏽 https://t.co/4xmP6nbmfa
— Rahul Kalvapalle (@Kalvapalle) May 25, 2023
So because Vini isn’t mature and provokes fans, it’s okay for them to be racist? Thought a lot more of Pepe Reina than this. https://t.co/CJwj3yR64G
— YNWA (@0PINI0N4T3D) May 25, 2023
Pepe Reina has courted controversy at times in recent years, most notably for his support the Spanish far-right nationalist party Vox, including supporting an anti-covid rally at the height of Spain's strict public health measures back in 2020.
Considering this, these comments do not seem out of character.