Barcelona star Dani Alves said he had been encouraged by the support he has received after he ate a banana thrown onto the field on Sunday, but he insisted Spain still has much to do to fight racism in both football and society.
• Corrigan: No small problem
When a banana was thrown at the Brazil international during Sunday’s 3-2 victory at Villarreal, Alves reacted by taking a bite and playing on, and afterwards said: “You have to take it with a dose of humour. If you don't give it importance, they don't achieve their objective.”
After the game, Alves uploaded a video of the incident to his personal Instagram account, with his club and international colleague Neymar also helping shape the response by immediately posting a photo of himself and his young son on Instagram, both smiling while holding their own bananas, with the hashtag #weareallmonkeys.
Many other footballers were quick to back the campaign and highlight the issue. Former Brazil and Real Madrid left-back Roberto Carlos uploaded a photo of himself with a banana to his Facebook page, while Manchester City’s Argentine striker Sergio Aguero tweeted a photo of himself with Brazil women's national team forward Marta saying: “With my colleague Marta from Brazil we say #NoToRacism. We are all equal.”
Italy and AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli also posted an Instagram photo and the hashtags #WeAreAllMonkeys and #NoToRacism, while Chelsea’s Brazil defender David Luiz uploaded a picture showing him alongside teammates Oscar and Willian and the same #WeAreAllMonkeys hashtag.
The campaign even entered into Brazilian politics, with President Dilma Rousseff tweeting: “The player @DaniAlvesD2 has given a courageous and strong response to racism in sport.”
O jogador @DaniAlvesD2 deu uma resposta ousada e forte ao racismo no esporte— Dilma Rousseff (@dilmabr) April 28, 2014
Alves’ reaction was highlighted in the general Spanish media early on Monday, with TV presenter Marilo Montero eating a banana live on air on national broadcaster TVE’s breakfast programme. The Spanish sports media also joined the protest, with Marca incorporating three bananas into the “A” in its front cover masthead on Tuesday.
Alves himself told Radio Globo in Brazil: “I was surprised by the support of everyone. It was something I did without thinking about the repercussions. The world has changed and we must change with it.”
Villarreal have already issued a life ban to the individual who threw the banana onto the pitch, but Alves said he deserved to also be publicly shamed for his actions.
“If I could, I would put a photo of the supporter on the internet so that he would feel ashamed,” he said. “He would not go to the stadium.”
Alves, who has suffered abuse throughout his 11 years in La Liga with Sevilla and Barca, added that Spanish society in general has a serious problem with racism.
“There is racism against foreigners,” he said. “They sell the country like the first world, but in some things they are very behind the times.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter also reacted to the incident by calling for a battle against “all forms of discrimination” on his Twitter account, but Alves said the governing body should be devoting greater energy to anti-racism measures rather than punishing Barca for breaking youth-transfer regulations.
“FIFA should worry itself more about things which are more important than La Masia,” Alves said. “They should pay attention to more important things.”
In such cases, La Liga authorities can impose fines of up to 60 thousand euros on clubs as well as closing grounds for subsequent games. Asked about the matter by Marca, Spanish FA president Angel Maria Villar declined to mention any specific measures that might be taken over Sunday’s incident.
“Spanish football is against racism and xenophobia,” Villar said. “The [Liga] competition committee will look at [what happened].”