Dani Alves and Neymar had consciously planned to battle racism by eating the next banana thrown their way prior to Barcelona's clash with Villarreal on Sunday.
The gesture was decided upon "well in advance," according to Spanish paper AS (via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC). A marketing firm is said to have contacted the duo after they were racially abused against Espanyol in March, where it was decided "one of them would make sure to eat the fruit on camera" next time such an incident occurred.
This incident would then be used to ensure an anti-racism campaign would have "maximum impact" across the globe. Guga Ketzer—representative of advertising agency Ludocca who worked with marketing experts Meio e Mensagem to launch the initiative—confirms both players were ready to act in the appropriate situation, per Corrigan:
Actions speak louder than words. A gesture needs no translation and what we’re seeing is that this has gone viral, globally. The idea was for Neymar to eat the banana, but in the end it was Alves, and that works just the same.
Twitter users will have noticed a "#weareallmonkeys" tag (#somostodosmacacos in Portuguese) trending since the occurrence. Although it appeared Neymar started this by posting an off-the-cuff image of himself eating a banana in support of Alves, the hashtag was also manufactured before the event, confirmed by Ketzer (via Corrigan):
The best way to beat prejudice is to take the sting out of the racist action so it isn’t repeated. We created '#somostodosmacacos' and '#weareallmonkeys,' with the gesture of eating a banana, and it has been turned into a movement.
That movement has spread far and wide, as noted by Bleacher Report UK:
Corrigan even posted an image of a T-shirt created for the campaign, signalling it is likely to have a lasting effect heading into the 2014 Brazil World Cup:
Neymar and Alves are two of the host nation's biggest stars heading into the summer's festivities. While some may suggest the racist fan's actions were pre-planned to aid the campaign, it is worth noting this is likely not the case. Villarreal's decision to ban the offender suggests the act is another disappointing example of ignorance in football and not part of a marketing push, per FourFourTwo.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter called the abuse "an outrage," per Sky Sports, but his words carry little weight if the governing body doesn't act in a powerful manner.
Unlike NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who recently banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and forced him to pay a $2.5 million fine after his private racist remarks were taped, football's leading man is yet to significantly stamp down his authority.
After the Alves incident, Barca's right-back suggested he doesn't intend on providing the racist with any limelight, saying, "If you don't give it importance, they don't achieve their objective," per The Guardian. While the unknown individual has been punished without receiving exposure, both Alves and Neymar have breathed new life into the racism debate by agreeing to take action.
It's a clever move, and certainly a prominent decision heading into the Brazilian World Cup. By leading with Neymar—the nation's posterboy—alongside the easygoing and likeable Alves, the message is sure to resonate with fans across the world.
FIFA must follow this by taking stern action heading into its flagship event. The players are doing their bit, fighting against racism in a dignified and intelligent manner, but they can only raise awareness. Ultimately, it is the governing body's decision to deploy a suitable punishment that will stand tallest.
Racism must not be tolerated and FIFA must enact punishments for supporters and its member countries to act as deterrents toward this behaviour.