The world of football has rallied round a Barcelona player who unwittingly sparked a social media campaign against racism by eating a banana thrown at him by an opposition fan.
Dani Alves, who also plays for the Brazilian national team, was targeted with the fruit as he prepared to take a corner during Sunday evening’s Spanish league match against Villareal.
Rather than protesting to the referee, the 30-year-old stooped to pick up the banana before nonchalantly peeling it, taking a bite and resuming play.
In the 48 hours since the game, the defender’s gesture, captured on live television, has been mimicked by dozens of players around the world in a show of solidarity.
Stars such as Neymar, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez are among those who have posted pictures of themselves on Twitter and Instagram taking bites out of bananas in tribute to Alves’ unconventional action during his side’s game.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has branded the abuse directed at Alves an “outrage” and promised zero tolerance towards discrimination at the World Cup. Villarreal took swift action to identify the culprit and handed him a lifetime stadium ban. Explaining his actions after the match, Alves, who has been the victim of racist abuse before during his time in La Liga, said: “You need to take these situations with a dose of humour.”
Alves’ Barcelona and Brazil team-mate Neymar led the way by posting a picture on Instagram of himself holding a banana, while writing: “We are all monkeys.” Balotelli, AC Milan’s former Manchester City striker, posted a picture of himself in a similar pose.
Liverpool striker Suarez posted a picture on Twitter of himself and team-mate Philippe Coutinho taking bites out of bananas, along with the hashtags “#SayNoToRacism #WeAreAllMonkeys.”
Argentina and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero put up an image of him and Brazil women’s superstar Marta eating bananas, accompanied by the message: “With my colleague Marta from Brazil we say No To Racism. We are all equal.”
Tottenham trio Emmanuel Adebayor, Nacer Chadli, Moussa Dembele and Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva all gave Alves their backing.
Blatter said on Twitter he was appalled by the treatment of Alves. The Fifa chief said: “What Alves tolerated last night is an outrage. We must fight all forms of discrimination united. Will be zero tolerance at World Cup.”
Barcelona said they had given Alves their “complete support and solidarity” and thanked Villarreal for their “immediate condemnation” of the incident.
Yesterday, Alves said the Spanish authorities had to redouble their efforts to tackle the scourge of racism, but expressed shock at the support he has received.
He said: “There is racism against foreigners. They sell the country as being first-world but in certain things they are very backward.
“I have been surprised by everyone’s support. I did it without thinking.
“The world has evolved and we must evolve with it.”