MADRID (AP) — Three Valencia fans have been handed eight-month prison sentences after pleading guilty to racially insulting Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior in the first conviction for racism-related cases in professional soccer in Spain.

The fans, whose names weren’t released, won’t be allowed to enter soccer stadiums for two years and will have to pay for all the court proceedings.

They were detained after a Spanish league match between Real Madrid and Valencia at Mestalla Stadium in May 2023. The match was briefly stopped after Vinícius was insulted.

That incident sparked an outpouring of support for Vinícius, who is Black, and set off widespread calls for action by Spanish authorities and society in general.

Many saw it as a turning point in the fight against racism in Spanish soccer, although Vinícius continued to be subjected to racist abuse several months after the initial uproar that accompanied the incident at Mestalla.

The sentence found the defendants guilty of a crime against moral integrity with the aggravating circumstance of discrimination based on racist motives.

The case was brought before the courts by the Spanish league, which was joined by the Spanish soccer federation, Real Madrid and Vinícius.

Valencia had already banned the fans shortly after the incident at its stadium. But no one had ever gone to trial in Spain for racially abusing a player, and many similar cases of abuse like the one faced by Vinícius had been shelved by prosecutors in the past.

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