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Brazil club punished for racism

SAO PAULO -- A sports tribunal has ordered a club in southern Brazil to play five matches away from their stadium because their fans racially abused a referee during a match.

Fans of Brazil's Cruzeiro hold a banner that reads "Say No to Racism."

The tribunal also fined Esportivo about $13,000 after some supporters allegedly called the referee a "monkey" and told him to "return to the jungle" in a match in the Rio Grande do Sul state championship on March 5. The fans also vandalised the referee's car and left bananas on top of it.

Esportivo were almost banned from this year's regional tournament. But the tribunal decided late on Thursday only to prevent the team from playing at their ground in the city of Bento Goncalves for the next five home matches. The club can appeal.

During the tribunal hearing, referee Marcio Chagas da Silva met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia. She invited him and two Brazilian players recently targeted by racist taunts.

Cruzeiro midfielder Tinga heard "monkey" chants every time he touched the ball during a Copa Libertadores match last month in Peru.

Santos midfielder Arouca also was taunted with "monkey" chants during an interview by reporters after a match in the Sao Paulo state championship last week. Arouca couldn't meet with the president because he said he had previous commitments with his club.

Mogi Mirim, whose fans were allegedly responsible for the taunts against Arouca, is expected to be punished by a sports tribunal. The recent racism cases made front-page headlines in the country that will host the World Cup in three months. Rousseff publicly condemned the racist incidents, saying "sports can never serve as a stage for prejudice."

Players and fans carried banners with anti-racism messages in several matches last weekend and more are planned in upcoming matches. In their next game, Santos will wear a kit with the words "black with pride" on it.

FIFA has sponsored anti-racism campaigns in Europe that have had modest levels of success, and it has promised to raise more awareness during this year's World Cup.

Rousseff recently said on her Twitter account that she has already talked to the U.N. and to FIFA to make the World Cup in Brazil the "World Cup for Peace" and the "World Cup Against Racism."

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