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May 8, 2014

Thuram hits out at 'joke' Villarreal fine

The Spanish League has handed Villarreal a fine of 12,000 euros after one of the club's supporters threw a banana at Barcelona's Dani Alves in a recent game at El Madrigal.

Former Barcelona defender Lilian Thuram has told El Pais it is "a joke" the authorities fined Villarreal just 12,000 euros after a fan threw a banana at Dani Alves during a game, adding: "It shows they do not want to end racism."

Barca and Brazil full-back Alves picked up and ate the banana, leading to a social media campaign led by his club and country teammate Neymar, which drew global attention to the issue of racism in Spanish football.

Villarreal quickly identified and banned the fan responsible, and he was also arrested and charged by local police, but La Liga authorities (LFP) decided against taking strong action against the club -- such as forcing them to play behind closed doors -- and instead issued a fine.

Former France international Thuram said: "It is a joke to impose a 12,000 euro fine. It shows they do not want to end racism.

"In America, they take this seriously -- Donald Sterling was thrown out of the NBA. The referees must stop the game and the federation close the ground. The Spanish competition committee does not understand racism -- it is an act of violence against a player and against the people watching the game."

The reaction to the incident in Barca's 3-2 win at El Madrigal on April 27 has been mixed, with Villarreal president Fernando Roig claiming it would be unfair to punish the club for an "isolated incident" carried out by one individual, and hundreds of people protesting in support of the fan, who a family spokesperson claimed had been "lynched" by the media.

However, it was just the latest in a series of incidents former Sevilla defender Alves has suffered throughout his 11 years in La Liga. Other players including, but not limited to, Real Madrid defender Marcelo, Real Betis centre-half Paulao, Granada full-back Allan-Romeo Nyom and -- during a Champions League youth match against Atletico Madrid -- Manchester City youngster Devante Cole have all faced similar abuse this season alone.

The latest incident came at Levante, when visiting Atletico fans directed "monkey noises" at home midfielder Papakpouli Diop. Even though Diop confronted those abusing him at the final whistle, and players from both sides raced over to get involved, referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez did not view what occurred as serious enough to include in his official match report, making it unlikely La Liga authorities will take any action.

Thuram, 42, said that there was "hypocrisy" in football and society when it came to dealing with racist incidents, and called for football to use its high profile to hand out punishments that could help change attitudes.

"[Racism] is an aggression and you must tend to the person who has been attacked," he said. "Although there is also a lot of hypocrisy because racism is inside society, football is the No. 1 sport and needs exemplary punishments."

Thuram, the author of a book entitled "My Black Stars: From Lucy to Barack Obama," said he did not think much progress had been made on the issue during his lifetime.

"When I was small, in France, they threw a banana at the Cameroon keeper Joseph-Antoine Bell," he said. "It affected me. They did the same in England with John Barnes. In 2014, we are still the same. We have not advanced."

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