Barcelona right-back Dani Alves stood up to racism in his own unique way on Sunday night, by casually eating a banana that was disgracefully thrown at him by a member of the El Madrigal crowd in Villarreal.
The 30-year-old received the backing of his professional colleagues around the world for his actions, but the matter has now gone higher than football.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff announced that she fully supports the #somostodosmacacos (#WeAreAllMonkeys) campaign via her official Twitter page, as the fight to kick racism out of football continues:
BREAKING - Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has approved Neymar's campaign #somostodosmacacos to defend Alves and all black people.— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats) April 28, 2014
Alves' Brazil and Barcelona colleague Neymar started the social media trend, and he's rightly been praised for his contribution to such a sensitive and serious cause:
Sadly, this isn’t the first incident of racism in Spanish football, but Alves’ exploits and Rousseff joining the quest for racial equality in football will go a long way toward preventing the issue escalating further.
Back in 2011, Alves told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that racism in football is unpreventable and that it will continue for the ages—via the Daily Mail:
I live with racism in every game, but I'm not offended. Fans insult me and call me "monkey". At first I was quite shocked, but now I don't give it any importance. I have learned to live with it. My family is sad about it. They complain, but I try to distance myself from it. I believe these people are uneducated. The clubs and the league try to do some things to stop it. They try to punish the clubs, but it is uncontrollable. It will not go away.
While the Brazilian full-back’s words are shocking, they appear to have an element of truth in them based on Sunday’s appalling events.
However, the one thing that separates this event from other counts of racism is that it’s the world’s response to the abuse that is dominating the headlines, not the banana-throwing itself.
With Rousseff now joining the campaign, others are certain to follow; and the more backing it gets, the more chance football has of coming out of its occasional 19th-century ideals.
Racism is one of the most serious issues affecting the modern game, but Alves has managed to turn discrimination into mass union by standing up to this cowardly minority of football fans.
Let’s hope that the appropriate punishments are made and we edge ever closer to racism’s place in football ceasing to exist. For now, though, we can simply take a leaf out of Rousseff’s book and applaud the actions of Alves.