Madrid. Attention due to the latest case of insults directed at the striker of Real Madrid Vinicius the Younger could bring Spain to a tipping point in its fight against racism in football.

Never before have local authorities acted so swiftly against a fan who insulted a player, and never before have football officials punished a club so harshly for the racist behavior of its fans.

Things clearly changed when Vinicius turned his attention to Spain, pointing the finger at those who had insulted him last week in Valencia.. But problems that existed before the Vinicius case led to action by the Spanish authorities remain, particularly allegations of ill-treatment of fans.

No one has been prosecuted in Spain for racist abuse against players, and despite the attention the recent Vinicius case has attracted, it may not be so easy for fans to pay for their actions in court.

Cases similar to the one brought against Vinicius on Sunday have been brought by prosecutors in the past, including others involving the Brazilian star.

Spain created a law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sports in 2007, but not all cases can be criminalized, only those cases where there is an intention to cause physical or moral harm to the victim. There is room for interpretation and most cases, including the “monkey” chants against Vinicius, end up with light punishments such as fines or a ban from the stadium.

What will it take to criminalize these people?Vinicius said this week in one of several Twitter posts criticizing the lack of action against racism in Spain.

Prosecutors who brought Vinicius’ case accepted that the “disgusting” racist chants at him took place in the context of a football rivalry and while they were “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” they took place as part of normal football taunts.

The Spanish league, which condemned the cases, chose not to file complaints with prosecutors specializing in hate crimes and took them directly to court.

“It forced us to change our strategy,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas admitted in an interview with The Associated Press before the latest case against Vinicius. “. We no longer want to meet with prosecutors who can give the opinion, we prefer that the judge be the one who should give the opinion.”

Thebes also asked for the league to have more sanctioning powers, as they can only report incidents. He said the league could end racism within six months of being empowered.

The first trial against a fan accused of racist abuse in Spanish football is scheduled for this year and involves Athletic Bilbao forward Ignacy Williams, the older brother of Nico Williams. An Espanyol supporter insulted him at a meeting in 2020.

Hate crimes in Spain are punishable by one to four years in prison, while crimes against a person’s moral integrity are punishable by six to 24 months in prison.