Dani Alves Highlights Continuing Problem of Racism in Spanish Football

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 31:  Dani Alves of FC Barcelona faces the media during a press conference ahead the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match against Atletico de Madrid at Sant Joan Despi Sport Complex on March 31, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

As Barcelona's Dani Alves prepared to take a corner at Villarreal on Sunday, an incident of hatred and idiocy befell him. A "fan" threw a banana at the Brazilian fullback in a physical embodiment of the verbal racist abuse the Brazilian full-back was receiving.

To diffuse the situation, Alves took a bite from the yellow fruit and carried on with his business.

Within hours, his teammate and countryman Neymar had expressed his support for the gesture, posting pictures to his Instagram of him posing with a banana, adding a #somostodosmacacos (#weareallmonkeys) hashtag.  


The social media trend spread like wildfire, and before long, footballers from all over the world were rallying behind Alves. Even Luis Suarez abandoned his sense of self-awareness by posing with a banana.

The positive response among the game's professionals has been pleasing, but the issue of racism within Spanish football is still rife.

On Tuesday, Alves was reported in The Guardian as saying Spain was "very backward" in terms of the nation's racism against foreigners. A cursory glance at recent events gives substance to his claim.

In February, Marcelo received racist abuse at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium. Going back a few years, Samuel Eto'o nearly walked from the field at Zaragoza in protest to monkey chants, while an England friendly with Spain at the Bernabeu in 2004 brought embarrassment as fans abused the Three Lions' black players.   

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Around five years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a few Athletic Bilbao games at their old San Mames stadium and was shocked to hear racist jeering at black opposition players (one of whom, incidentally, was Jermaine Pennant on loan at Zaragoza).

Having followed a Premier League team home and away for many years, this was a shock to the system and a return to an era that has long since been eradicated in England.

(Athletic Club, for the record, are also accused of being racist on the grounds of their strict "cantera" policy, which only permits players of Basque origin to represent the team.)

Incidents of racism in Spain are not contained to moronic fans, either. In 2004, the highly respected national team manager Luis Aragones landed in hot water after referring to Thierry Henry as a "black s--t."   

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This racism isn't just contained to the beautiful game. Formula 1 fans will remember Lewis Hamilton's treatment in Catalunya in 2008, while the Spanish Olympic basketball team failed to see any issues with a team picture that caused an outcry in the rest of the world. 

It seems that Spain has a different perception of what constitutes racism, perhaps stemming from what SB Nation's Siempre Riquelme cites as a latent Franco-era ideology of racial superiority.

This could explain why the F1 fans who abused Lewis Hamilton stood by their actions and protested their innocence. This may be why Sergio Ramos is able to dress like this at a public festival. 

Regardless of the differences in the parameters of acceptable behaviour, the Spanish football association and the LFP need to take greater action against overtly racist acts.

One of the reasons the #somostodosmacacos social media campaign has spread so quickly is that there is no centrally organised anti-racism body in Spanish football. This must change. 

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 27:  The Spain and Italy players display an anti-racism message to the crowd prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Semi Final match between Spain and Italy at Castelao on June 27, 2013 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by C
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Villarreal have made the right call by issuing a lifetime ban to the fan who threw the banana at Alves, but this kind of behaviour needs to have greater ramifications.

Perhaps the Spanish authorities could take a leaf out of UEFA's book by slapping clubs with partial stadium closures. Zenit St Petersburg, Olympiakos, CSKA Moscow and Atleti have all been punished in this manner this season for racism during European games. 

By increasing the punishments and lobbying the government to encourage criminal sanctions against offenders, Spanish football's governing bodies can show that they are taking a hard line against racism. 

Follow me on Twitter @RyanJayBailey

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