Dani Alves has called upon critics of his and Neymar's anti-racism campaign to stop "focusing on the context" and begin thinking about the "objective."
The full-back sparked a racism debate when he ate a banana thrown at him during Barcelona's tie with Villarreal on Sunday, and it later became apparent that he and his teammate had been ready to launch an anti-racism campaign if such an incident struck.
Although it must be noted that the banana thrower was a legitimate member of the public, AS confirmed both Blaugrana stars had planned to eat the next fruit thrown their way "well in advance," as reported by Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC.
It is hypocritical to criticise a campaign against racism. The critics are focusing on the context and not the objective, which is to make people aware that we are all humans and all the same.
I did not expect so many people to get involved with this. It did not happen on other occasions when racism was denounced. I was very pessimistic about that part.
Claims made by Alves shortly after the event were reportedly taken badly by some, as the Brazilian could be seen to have generalised Spain as a racist country. Eurosport provided the potentially offensive quotes:
DANI ALVES: "There is racism against foreigners. They sell [Spain] as being first world but in certain things they are very backward."— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) April 29, 2014
Alves sought to clarify his stance and aimed to emphasise that, while he doesn't believe the entire nation is accountable, the latest incident wasn't a one-off, per Corrigan. "I did not want to generalise," said Alves. "I did not mean that Spain is racist but that there is racism in Spain, because I have suffered it at different grounds. This was not an isolated case."
The defender received support from some of football's top names, including Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Spanish futsal star Falcao. Neymar tweeted "#weareallmonkeys" (#somostodosmacacos in Portuguese) shortly after the incident took place, a trend that was quickly reinforced by the aforementioned individuals, as noted by Bleacher Report UK:
Despite drawing harsh criticism, Alves says the project "has more force" with Neymar behind it, per Corrigan. The 30-year-old believes any lasting impact "is a boost, because the minimum you can expect from people is some respect."
The fact that Alves' act has forced the footballing community to talk about racism is a real plus, but social media support must be met with action from FIFA.
While Villarreal banned the offending supporter for life, it's up to football's governing body to stop abuse on a major scale. Players such as Alves and Neymar can bring attention to the problem, but lasting progress can only be made if FIFA acts as courageously as Barcelona's abused.