During a training break under a giant banner with the image of Vinicius Junior, In the same field where the Real Madrid star prepared his professional debut, the young Pierry Amaro Ricardo laments the racism suffered by his idol.
“It’s inhumane,” says this 18-year-old midfielder, a promising Brazilian soccer player.
Like all the boys who chase the ball down the artificial turf pitch of Flamengo’s youth academy in Sao Gonçalo, a poor city on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Ricardo dreams of emulating the meteoric path of 22-year-old Vinicius, who gave Here are his first steps before signing for Real Madrid at 16.
But the youngster fears that black players like him will continue to receive the same treatment as “Vini Jr”, who on Sunday in Valencia was yelled “monkey” from the stands. It was just the latest in a series of racist attacks against him.
“It’s getting worse and worse,” says Ricardo, who plays in the youth division of Flamengo, Brazil’s most popular soccer club.
“Some think it’s normal. They judge us by the color of our skin. My mother always told me since I was little: ‘Blacks have to be twice as good,'” he told AFP.
“That’s the way things are. I’m going to get to the top anyway,” says the young footballer.
The staff of the youth academy where Vinicius Jr. was trained, Escola Flamengo, feel anguish at seeing the attacks against the player, whom they remember as a sweet child and a model student who captivated everyone.
“He was a great kid, very respectful and dedicated. He was our standout, on and off the pitch,” says Monique Monteiro, 32, who works in the school’s reception.
He recounts in awe how “Vini” escaped a childhood of poverty and the rough streets of Sao Gonçalo, a working-class city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, to rise to the top of professional soccer.
“It was not easy for him. He did it all with his own sweat… and a lot of support from his family,” Monique told AFP.
“For those of us who have seen his entire career, everything he went through to get to where he is, it’s very sad. Seeing him suffer like this makes us very angry.” Add.
Vinicius José Paixao de Oliveira Junior grew up in a small house at the end of a cul-de-sac in an impoverished neighborhood that borders the BR-101 highway.
Even after becoming one of the biggest stars in world soccer, he has maintained a strong connection to his hometown.
His family still lives in the same house, now enlarged and luxuriously renovated. In his block there are several graffiti, including one of Vinicius wearing the Brazilian team shirt, in which he dreams of winning the World Cup.
Neighbors say that the soccer player has contributed widely to his community, for example, through his Vini Jr. Institute.
That charity seeks to help children with their school performance through innovative programs that harness technology and the national passion of Brazilians for soccer.
“Sao Gonçalo and Brazil are proud of you”, the municipal government published on social networks, in support of its hero.
The soccer player received an avalanche of messages of solidarity from Brazilian personalities, from President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to music icon Gilberto Gil and fellow national team stars Neymar and Richarlison.
In the center of Sao Gonçalo, residents comment on their disgust at the latest episode.
“It’s just absurd to call the kid a monkey. It just defies logic,” says Marcia Maria da Costa, 62, who sells soccer gear at a local street market, where Vinicius’ shirts are in high demand.
Telephone salesman Víctor Gabriel Ferreira, who grew up in the Vinicius neighborhood, was outraged by the racist attacks.
“Brazil and the world cannot bear to see a black man from the favela reach the top of the best players in the world,” he says.
“That’s what he is.”