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May 9, 2014

Spanish government blast racism 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.

The Spanish government are set to appeal the 12,000 euro fine imposed by the La Liga authorities on Villarreal due to the incident which saw a banana thrown at Barcelona player Dani Alves.

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 and banned the thrower from sporting events for two years.

Spain's Sports minister Miguel Cardenal has told TVE's breakfast show that such a punishment sent an insufficiently strong message about the country's attitude to racist acts.

"We must have zero tolerance on racism," Cardenal said. "Any measure you take is not enough. We must fight with all our efforts and not debate if we have more or less racism than other countries. Any level is completely wrong. To me the punishment seemed insufficient, and if possible, we will appeal it. It is something which the Anti-violence Commission are studying."

Cardenal echoed the view of ex-Barcelona defender Lilian Thuram that as a high-profile sport football should set an example on important issues such as this.

"You must send a clear message to society and give a lesson on this matter," he said. "With the financial resources which football has in our country, if the response to an incident like this is [a fine of] 12.000 euros, in my opinion the message that is sent to society is not at all proportional to the size of the phenomenon. I would like for clubs to accept when punishments are handed out, and take more responsibility in eradicating this."

In a statement to Europa Press Spain's official Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, which has been criticised recently for turning a blind-eye to similar racist incidents in the past, also said it thought the measures announced by La Liga's authorities in this case were not strong enough.

"The commission does not share the content of said disciplinary decision, made public in the media, and considers that it should be revised given the seriousness of the incident," the statement said.

Villarreal coach Marcelino has meanwhile pointed out that many similar incidents of racism inside Spanish football grounds have gone unpunished in the past.

"Fines of 10,000 or 20,000 euros [do not solve the problem]," Marcelino said in Marca. "There have been situations much bigger than this incident. I want to say that we are making mistakes in something. This is something which does not just happen at El Madrigal, it happens in nearly every stadium."

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