Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Football still has a racism problem

Dani Alves defiantly eats the banana thrown during Barcelona's win at Villarreal
Dani Alves defiantly eats the banana thrown during Barcelona's win at Villarreal

Over the weekend, two of the most prominent sports in the world were left to deal with unsavoury incidents of racism and yet produced greatly differing responses.

In Spain's La Liga, the Barcelona full-back Dani Alves had a banana hurled in his direction from a section of Villarreal supporters in his side's 3-2 victory on Sunday evening.

Alves responded by picking up the piece of fruit in question and eating it before resuming play.

The move became an instant YouTube hit and brought the senseless act of prejudice to a much wider audience while the subsequent viral campaign continues to gather pace. Much to the chagrin of Alves himself however, and although the fan was banned by Villarreal, a tangible response from any of football's governing bodies remains conspicuous by its absence bar cursory statements of support.

While it is no doubt difficult to punish clubs for the actions of individual fans, contrast this to the high-profile case of LA Clippers basketball club owner Donald Sterling.

A recording of the 80-year-old business magnate urging a female not to associate with black people at his team's games emerged on Friday.

Action from the NBA was swift and by Monday Sterling was banned from the sport for life, likely forced to sell the team and fined £1.5m while even President Obama addressed the issue.

In sharp contrast, football's response featured Spain coach Vicente del Bosque denying that the sport had a problem.

Times have certainly changed since the disgraceful treatment of black players as recently as the 1980s. However, football must admit that there is still much work to do.

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