Dani Alves has said those criticising the anti-racism campaign he helped launch as pre-planned should remember that previous complaints about racism had gone unheeded.
The Barcelona and Brazil right-back peeled and ate a banana thrown at him during a La Liga game at Villarreal last month, with his club and international colleague Neymar immediately posting an image of himself and his young son with bananas on both Instagram and Twitter.
It later emerged that a group of marketing experts had worked closely with Neymar and Alves to design a campaign to draw attention to the issue, and T-shirts featuring the #weareallmonkeys hashtag created by marketing professionals have gone on sale in Brazil.
High-profile players including Sergio Aguero, David Luiz, Mario Balotelli and Roberto Carlos also posted photos of themselves with bananas using the #weareallmonkeys hashtag, while Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon have also offered support.
Spanish police have arrested the individual identified as the thrower of the banana, and Villarreal -- who have banned him for life -- are expected to be punished by the La Liga authorities.
Alves told BBC Brasil that anyone focusing on the pre-planned nature of the campaign was missing the point.
“It is hypocritical to criticise a campaign against racism,” he said. “The critics are focusing on the context and not the objective, which is to make people aware that we are all humans and all the same.
“I did not expect so many people to get involved with this. It did not happen on other occasions when racism was denounced. I was very pessimistic about that part.”
Asked about the involvement of Neymar, Alves said he was happy to have had any such support in his battle to change attitudes.
“I am natural, I am not a character,” he said. “With Neymar it has more force, and I am happy with the repercussions. I have talked to more influential people [anti-racism campaigners] so that this type of [racist] attitude does not continue. The campaign is a boost, because the minimum you can expect from people is some respect.”
Alves and Neymar have been criticised by some in Spain for their claims of widespread racism around La Liga, while Villarreal president Fernando Roig said it was unfair to punish his club for what he called an “isolated incident”.
Alves said: “I did not want to generalise. I did not mean that Spain is racist but that there is racism in Spain, because I have suffered it at different grounds. This was not an isolated case.”
The BBC Brasil article recalled that a banana had been thrown at Neymar during a friendly against Scotland at Wembley in 2011.
After it emerged that the culprit was a German tourist, the English police decided it had not been a racist gesture and should not be punished.