Vinicius Junior Real Madrid HIC 16:9Getty/GOAL

Vinicius Jr: The ultimate role model who must never stop dancing

Sadly, we probably shouldn't have been surprised with how impressively Vinicius Junior has handled the past week.

He's been here before, after all. Several times. He knows how things work at this stage.

First comes the racial abuse. Then, the meaningless, mealy-mouthed apology, accompanied by the pathetic claim that comments had been misinterpreted or taken out of context.

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Pedro Bravo tried to make out that his problem with Vinicius Junior was a perceived lack of respect for his opponents.

But the Brazilian was having none of it. He may be only 22 but he has already experienced enough racism to form his own opinion that Bravo's real issue was with the colour of his skin.

"They say that happiness bothers," he said. "The happiness of a black Brazilian being successful in Europe bothers much more."

There's long been an issue in football with certain individuals taking offence to how black players express themselves, on and off the field: how they act, what they say, what they wear, how they style their hair... And it's not like the situation is improving either.

Remember, just over three years ago, Moise Kean celebrated a goal against Cagliari by silently but defiantly standing in front of the curva with his arms open wide – a powerful response to those that had been racially abusing him throughout the whole game.

Moise Kean JuventusGetty Images

And yet when the enraged home fans responded by more sickening taunts, Kean was accused of provoking the crowd. By his own team-mate.

"I think the blame is 50-50," Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci incredibly claimed afterwards.

That lack of support can take its toll. Mario Balotelli once admitted that he was often left feeling "a little bit alone" when he was targeted and that the abuse eventually wore him down, making him question if he even wanted to play for Italy anymore.

Thankfully, Vinicius Junior's colleagues and compatriots immediately rallied around the Real Madrid forward.

Neymar, Eder Militao and Pele all voiced their support, while an irate Bruno Guimaraes called for Bravo to be jailed.

A Brazilian backlash was perhaps unsurprising. Black footballers, in general, are subjected to horrific abuse on a weekly basis but Vinicius clearly felt Bravo's comments were very specific.

Pele Vinicius Jr tweetGetty Images

There are fans, pundits and no doubt some players who feel Brazilian footballers are disrespectful and unprofessional, somehow more concerned with 'taking the p*ss' than respecting some imagined code of conduct.

Even aside from Bravo's contemptible and racially charged use of the word 'monkey', which rightly dominated the headlines, the claim that samba belongs only in the 'sambodrome' only served to hammer home the agent's total ignorance of Brazilian culture and history.

As Vinicius subsequently pointed out, he just doesn't dance to celebrate goals, he does it to pay tribute to those that came before him, such as Ronaldinho.

However, he also made a point of mentioning "Brazilian funk singers and samba dancers, Latin reggaeton singers, and black Americans".

It was an acknowledgement that dancing and football are two forms of expression that have a shared history in South America.

Vinicius Paqueta Neymar Brazil GFXGetty/GOAL

Indeed, the legendary defender Domingos da Guia once admitted that, as a black kid growing up in 1920s Brazil, he was "scared to play football".

"I often saw black players get whacked, just because they had made a foul, or sometimes for something less than that," Da Guia explained.

However, his older brother pointed out to him that a cat always lands on its feet and asked Domingos, "Aren't you good at dancing?"

He was, so he made it part of his game.

"I swung my hips a lot," Domingos explained. "That short dribble I invented, that came from imitating the miudinho, that type of samba."

As outlined in Alex Bellos' book 'Futebol', the author Gilberto Freyre subsequently argued that this kind of culture-infused innovation resulted in Brazilians taking football, a strictly regimented British game at the start of the century, and turning it into a "dance of irrational surprises" by the 1950s.

Of course, it wouldn't be long before football fans across the globe were bewitched by Brazil's 'Joga Bonito', with the Selecao's samba football illuminating one World Cup after another.

Garrincha, Pele, Romario, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Neymar and now Vinicius – all played, or play, the game with a carefree flamboyance and eagerness to entertain that is unmistakably Brazilian.

They make no apologies for it, and nor should they.

Ronaldinho dancingGetty/GOAL

And yet Neymar, for example, regularly receives more criticism for performing allegedly disrespectful flicks and tricks than those that repeatedly hack him to the ground.

There is clearly something very wrong with football's priorities when players are being dissuaded from showcasing their skills or fully expressing themselves for fear of brutal retaliation from embarrassed rivals.

As Pele wrote in support of Vinicius, "Football is joy. It's a dance. It's a real party. Although racism still exists, we will not allow that to stop us from continuing to smile. And we will continue to fight racism this way: fighting for our right to be happy."

And Vinicius is doing that in the best possible way: focusing on education, even building a school of his own to help kids from underprivileged backgrounds.

"I want the next generations to be prepared, as I am, to fight racists and xenophobes," he said.

Because the ignorant aren't going away anytime soon, as Bravo's comments and the vile chants which overshadowed the Madrid derby so painfully hammered home.

But Vinicius – scorer of a Champions League final-winning goal no less – isn't going anywhere either.

Vinicius Jr Real Madrid 2021-22Getty Images

Of course, it shouldn't fall on him, or black footballers in general, to lead the fight against racism but the way in which he has handled the abuse is truly inspirational.

This whole sorry affair has undeniably served as another depressing reminder that we've not progressed as much as we'd like to think from the 1920s. The game still has a major problem with racism, and how its authorities handle it.

However, Vinicius has not let it get him down. He has shown that Bravo and his kind will not break him. He remains defiant and, more importantly, "happy".

Despite all of the abuse he has endured, he is still not scared to play football like a Brazilian – or indeed celebrate like one.

"I will not stop dancing," Vinicius vowed, "at the sambadrome, at the Bernabeu, wherever I want!"

The perfect riposte to the racists, from the ultimate role model.