Dani Alves knows how to deal with racism. When a football supporter from Villareal threw a banana out to him as he prepared to take a corner kick, he simply saw it as a nice dose of potassium. He picked it up, peeled it and threw the skin over his shoulder. He has been commended for his use of humor against racism.
The Brazilian player for FCB Barcelona was taking a corner during the 2-3 win for the team in the La Liga match with Villareal, when a banana landed near his feet. Without making a scene, Alves just picked the banana up, ate it and continued to take his kick.
On Monday the Villareal team stated that they “deeply regretted” the incident. They have identified the supporter who threw the banana and banned him for life from their El Madrigal Stadium. They have also withdrawn his membership card.
Immediate responses to the abuse came flooding in. Former English football player Gary Lineker applauded the quick reaction by Alves calling the supporter “a complete berk.” Barcelona player Neymar also tweeted his support for his team-mate with a photo of himself holding a banana. The line under the banana read “we are all monkeys.” Soon other footballers joined in showing their support through photos of themselves holding or eating the fruit. Celebrities such as Jared Leto have also joined the movement.
Following the match the 30-year-old Alves also put a clip of the incident on Instagram. He followed it with a comment joking that when he was a young player, his father had always told him that eating bananas was a good way to relieve muscle cramps.
Unfortunately, the incident with the banana was not Dani Alves first brush with racism in Spain. He reportedly stated that he had “suffered” racial slurs “for some time.” One of the occasions of abuse occurred in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two teams are known as fierce competitors and matches between them ignite general sour feelings between the Catalans of Barcelona and the Castilians in Madrid. Supporters of the rival team abused Alves with “monkey chants.” The Barca player said that at the time, he considered leaving the pitch, but he knew it was better not to give in to them. He is said to have stated that he has dealt racist taunts since he first arrived in Spain. But his reaction on this occasion, with a dose of humor has shown his personal strength and gained an international following.
Alves’ father has also come out in support of his son, but in a different way. The 64-year-old plans to begin planting bananas. Bananas will be added to his already impressive list of produce; mangoes, watermelon, coconuts, passion-fruit and melons. However, he also warned his son not to pick up any more fruit thrown on to the pitch. He is worried that future abusers might inject some kind of poison into the food in an effort to harm the player.
After a racial incident in which player Kevin Prince-Boateng did walk off the pitch when he was abused by Italian fans, FIFA decided to introduce tougher sanctions against racism. While the first offence is simply a warning, the other punishments include teams having to play in empty stadiums and sanctions that can demote players, deduct points or cause the expulsion of entire teams from a league. All of this will hopefully mean that Dani Alves will not have to deal with racial slander like that which was attempted via the banana. In any case, he says himself that the incident must be met with “a dose of humor.”
By Sara Watson