SPANISH police arrested the man who allegedly racially insulted Barcelona defender Dani Alves by throwing a banana at him, and reports claimed the perpetrator worked for Villarreal.
Police confirmed 26-year-old David Campayo Lleo was arrested, with Spanish media reporting he was sacked from his role on the coaching staff of one of the club’s youth teams.
Villarreal would not confirm nor deny the reports about Campayo Lleo’s role with the club when questioned.
Campayo Lleo faces from one to three years in prison if found guilty of charges related to racist provocation.
Villarreal have banned Campayo Lleo from the team’s El Madrigal Stadium for life, and the Spanish league is expected to hand down punishment after the incident during Barcelona’s 3-2 win at Villarreal on Sunday.
Alves picked up the banana and took a bite, provoking a social media campaign against racism in support of the Brazilian player, who is black. Barcelona team-mate Neymar was the first to post a picture of himself with a banana, leading to a flood of football players and figures, celebrities and world politicians doing likewise. Alves said if he had it his way, he would post Campayo Lleo’s picture on the internet to shame him.
Villarreal said president Fernando Roig would be meeting with the team’s supporters’ groups to ensure such behaviour was not replicated after Alves called Spain “backward” and “there’s prejudice against foreigners because of race or colour”.
Alves has been subjected to racist taunts before, and black players Marcelo, Samuel Eto’o, and England’s black players have also been on the receiving end of well-publicised racist behaviour by Spanish fans.
Meanwhile, football has been urged to follow the example of the swift life ban issued to Donald Sterling, the owner of basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers over his racist comments.
The two most powerful men in world football – Sepp Blatter, president of international governing body Fifa, and his European counterpart, Michel Platini – both voiced approval.
Blatter tweeted: “Sport says no to racism. I support NBA’s decision to ban LA Clippers’ owner for life after his racist words.”
Platini said: “It is a great decision and I support it completely.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver “has not been in his job for a long time but he has shown great strength by punishing what is unacceptable behaviour by one of the owners”, the Uefa president added.
Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million, and pressed other team owners to support his desire to make Sterling sell the Clippers.
Patrick Vieira, a 1998 World Cup winner with France, tweeted: “Well done to NBA, another organisation dealing with racism in exactly the right way. I say again – zero tolerance.”
Overt racism in stadiums has dogged football for decades. Critics have long accused football leaders of lacking resolve and being too soft on teams with racist fans.
To some in Europe, the swift rejection of Sterling by NBA players, executives and owners served only to highlight football’s failure to eradicate racism from its grounds.
“If they can do that to respond to a hateful private utterance, why the hell can’t football do that to respond to repeated instances of hate-mongering?” retired British NBA player John Amaechi said.
“It’s time that we started looking at some of the owners within other parts of sport,” he said. “They’re exactly the type of plantation mentality people who don’t mind having black people working for them, but God forbid that they want to come up to the big house.”
Amaechi said he doesn’t expect the NBA’s punishment of Sterling will stiffen football’s own resolve, and Blatter’s tweet of support was “not enough,” he added.
But former England and Liverpool winger John Barnes, infamously targeted for racist abuse at the height of his career in the 1980s, said it was unfair to expect football to draw lessons from the NBA’s handling of Sterling. He noted the NBA has greater powers over club owners than European football leaders would have in similar circumstances.
“We can learn nothing from that until the [football] associations become much more powerful, which they never will because we know that the clubs are much more powerful than even the institutions themselves,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he views the Sterling affair and the banana thrown at Alves only as symptoms of racism. “Let’s treat the cause of it, like any disease,” he said. That treatment should include educating people why their racist views are wrong, Barnes added.
Fifa and Uefa have toughened sanctions for discrimination in the past year and prosecuted cases more quickly.
A turning point came in January 2013 when Kevin-Prince Boateng, then playing for AC Milan, led team-mates walking off the field to protest against racist insults during a friendly against a fourth-tier Italian side.
Fifa and Uefa have ordered national and club teams to play matches in empty or partially closed stadiums as punishment for racial abuse incidents, but no World Cup or Champions League team has yet had points deducted or forfeited a match.
Social media campaign
Alves picked up the banana and took a bite, provoking a social media campaign against racism in support of the Brazilian player, who is black.
Barcelona teammate and fellow Brazil international Neymar was the first to post a picture of himself with a banana, leading to a flood of football players and other figures, celebrities and world politicians doing likewise.
Villarreal said club president Fernando Roig would be meeting supporters’ groups to ensure such behaviour was not replicated after Alves called Spain “backward” and said there is “prejudice against foreigners because of race and colour”.
Alves has been subjected to racist taunts before, while Real Madrid star Marcelo, Cameroon and Chelsea forward Samuel Eto’o, and England’s Ashley Cole have also been on the receiving end of racist behaviour by Spanish fans.