Players show solidarity with Alves as Fare calls for long term action in Spain28 April 2014

InanactionthathasbothhorrifiedandbeenapplaudedbyplayersacrossEurope,Barcelona’sDaniAlvesreactedtohavingabananathrownathimduringamatchonSundayatVillarrealbypeelingitandthentakingabite.

He was about to take a corner when the banana landed on the pitch.

“We have suffered this in Spain for some time. You have to take it with a dose of humour,” Alves said.

Bulgaria, Greece, Spain in one week
The incident is the fourth example of a banana being thrown at black players in European football that the Fare network has recorded in the past week.

The others, in Bulgaria and Greece, also used bananas as a symbolic weapon of racism in top national level matches.

In response leading players in Europe and South America have attempted to support Alves by eating bananas to ridicule the racism.

Neymar, Hulk, Aguero, Marta show support
Neymar, a club-mate of Alves and a fellow Brazil international, and Manchester City and Argentina forward Sergio Aguero and womens football legend Marta displayed their solidarity with the player by publishing photographs of themselves eating bananas.

Brazilian compatriots Hulk, Fred and Lucas Leiva also lent support via their social media accounts, with Liverpool midfielder Lucas writing on Twitter: “Congratulations on your attitude yesterday. We are together on this fight against racism.”

Tottenham and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor said on Twitter: “Massive respect to danid2ois, there is no place for Racism in Football. #saynotoracism.”

Tottenham Hotspur midfielders Nacer Chadli and Moussa Dembele were also pictured eating bananas with a message supporting the fight against racism.

‘Need more action in Spain’
Some of the media in Spain have commended Alves for his actions, focusing on the fact that he played down the incident. “The Brazilian took the racist gesture on the chin,” said Marca.

The British journalist John Carlin, who is based in Spain and wrote the book that became the film Invictus, is doubtful whether the twitter campaign will have any real effect.

“Pigs will fly before the Spanish government investigates racism in football,” he wrote in an editorial published on Monday in El Pais newspaper. The country is still “in the stone age” on the issue, he added.

Piara Powar of the Fare network commented, “The fact that players have had their pictures taken with bananas in solidarity with Alves has become a powerful response to the incident.

“There is  a danger that we trivialise the nature of how racism can be dealt with. Eating a banana might be akin to symbolically eating racism, but in the end we need much more long-term action in Spain. Fans, football bodies and local authorities all need to be involved and to do so with a sense of urgency.”

Alves has been target before
Alves has been a regular target of racist abuse during his 12 years in Spain with both Sevilla and Barcelona.

In January 2013, he complained of racist abuse following a Copa del Rey semi-final match against Real Madrid. “We aren’t going to change things easily,” he said.

Referring specifically to Sunday’s incident, which took place on 75 minutes, he said: “If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”

“Barcelona wishes to express its complete support and solidarity with Dani Alves following the insults he was subject to,” a club statement read.

“Barcelona urges all clubs to continue fighting against the blight on the game which any kind of aggression against a sportsperson on the basis of their race represents.”

The Spanish media reported that match referee David Fernandez Borbalan made a note of the incident and that the country’s football association, RFEF, will meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter.