FC Barcelona defender Dani Alves reacted to a banana being thrown at him from the crowd by peeling it and taking a bite. The event occurred just as he was about to take a corner in his team’s away match against Villarreal on Sunday, which was eventually won by Barca 3-2. Referee David Fernandez Borbalan made a note of the situation when it took place, and Spain’s football association, RFEF, are due to decide on any action to be taken against Villarreal tomorrow.
During a difficult time with Spanish teams Barcelona and initially Sevilla with regards to racial abuse, Alves has become used to the unfortunate taunts and jeers. “We have suffered this in Spain for some time,” he said, “You have to take it with a dose of humour.”
His actions have been praised throughout the world of soccer, with big names in the sport taking to social media to voice their support. Ex-England striker Gary Lineker, who played for Barcelona for three years from 1986, tweeted that it was a “Top response” from the Brazilian player, and added, “Utterly brilliant reaction from Alves. Treat the racist berk with complete disdain!”
Fellow players Sergio Aguero and club and international teammate Neymar posted pictures of themselves eating a banana on Instagram as a sign of solidarity in the continued battle against racism. Liverpool FC midfielder Lucas Leiva summarised the attitude of his fellow professionals by taking to Twitter to write, “We are together on this fight against racism.”
It was the 75th minute of the game, with Barcelona trailing by two goals to one, when the now famous incident took place. Dani Alves lined up to take a corner, only to walk back onto the pitch and pick up the banana that had been thrown by someone in the crowd. He proceeded to nonchalantly peel and eat the fruit before taking the corner and continuing with the game. Moments later, Alves produced a cross that was headed into his own net by Villarreal centre-back Mateo Musacchio to pull the visitors level, and Lionel Messi slotted past goalkeeper Asenjo seven minutes before the end to round off the win.
It is not the first time Spanish soccer has been the centre of racism rows. In 2006, Samuel Eto’o attempted to walk off the pitch against Real Zaragoza after recieving a bombardment of bottles thrown at him, followed by a chorus of monkey chants. Despite his emphasis on how absurd the chanting was (namely by pointing to Zaragoza’s own black defender, Alvaro) the taunts grew louder, and it was only the intervention of Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard that prevented Eto’o leaving the pitch altogether.
Dani Alves himself also fell victim to racist abuse in a Copa del Rey match against Real Madrid in 2013. Speaking after that game, the Brazilian said that Spain was a “lost war” when it came to fighting racism in the country, and that the punishments for such an offence were too lenient.
With measures by the governing bodies in Spain seemingly ineffective against those that bring racism to soccer, perhaps Dani Alves’ example of eating a banana thrown from the crowd, and shrugging off the abuse with humour will prompt other professionals to react similarly and rise above people trying to destroy the reputation of the beautiful game.
Commentary by Zachary John C