The week had an ominous atmosphere before the Madrid derby between Real and Atlético. All the fuss around a racist statement aimed at Vinícius Júnior served to weigh too much on the animosity between two teams that no longer like each other. Minutes before the ball rolled, part of the mattress crowd chanted offensive chants like “Vini is a monkey” and reinforced that yes, the useless discussion about the celebrations actually had a racist background.
This horrific scenario has given a football game a warlike, unnecessary and certainly unwelcome contour. Sportingly speaking, Real Madrid beat Atlético 2-1, but society urgently needs to rethink its role in combating racial discrimination. It was even difficult to talk about ball and field, but there was a typically hot duel between two teams that are used to deciding championships.
On the Real side, the experience and the will to respond to the hatred coming from the stands was quite relevant. With 18 minutes into the game, the Metropolitano exploded into boos when Aurelien Tchouameni quickly triggered Rodrygo in an exquisite pass over the top. The winger was cool enough to make the final decision and hit the top of Jan Oblak’s goal, first. Immediately, Rodrygo amended a sambadinha next to Vinícius, in the corner flag. Not infrequently, objects flew into the field during the match. That was the environment that football had to try to overcome.
Real were not satisfied. And neither did Vini, who went for the mark without any shame. He was the target of the defense, but the marking brought a challenge that he masterfully overcame. The presence of Vini was huge throughout the field and in the offensive phases, which was proved in the second goal. He took off at speed on the right, free, and when he hit, he hit the post. Oblak watched in disbelief as the ball returned and landed at the feet of Federico Valverde, one of the highlights in the madridista midfield. With 36 minutes, Atlético was on the canvas and unconscious in front of a surgical executioner.
In the final stage, when the screams died down, Real just took the time and tried to cool things down. He managed to quiet the stands and take the rotation of the colchonero team. Vini, Carlo Ancelotti’s favorite bait, canceled out Reinildo Mandava, an icon on Atleti’s defensive side. Diego Simeone, then, tried to change the attack, as the partnership between Antoine Griezmann and João Félix did not yield. He also took out the nervous Rodrigo De Paul and Yannick Carrasco. The Atletico midfield practically did not exist in the match. By the time Koke and Geoffrey Kondogbia left, in the last third of the game, it was already clear that none of what Simeone had planned had worked out.
With seven minutes to go, Mario Hermoso, who replaced Kondogbia, appeared to shrug, almost unintentionally, to lower the score. Thibaut Courtois’ horrendous exit from the top made the defender’s mission easier. Atlético even tried to equalize, but was surrendered by the organized marking of Real. There was only time for confusion and complaints. Vini, protagonist of the derby, irritated the opponents too much and tried a reel towards Axel Witsel. In stoppage time, Hermoso and Daniel Carvajal had a falling out and there was almost a shack. There was a red card left for Hermoso, who lost control and had to be contained by Oblak.
We’ll be talking about this classic for a long time, maybe not for the right reasons. It was an upside down civilizational milestone to celebrate racism without the slightest shame and to direct so many offenses at a player who bothers too much for being talented, but not just talented. It remains to be seen what attitudes Atlético will take (if at all) to curb similar attitudes. Football was in the background on a shameful afternoon in Madrid’s squares. When he turned inside the four lines, it was worth another performance from a champion team with nerves in place, which leads La Liga with a style that does not enchant, but competes and wins. At Atletico, there remains the regret for not having seen the color of the ball and for not being energetic enough to inhibit indescribable attitudes from its fans.