Football

Published: Tuesday April 29, 2014 MYT 1:52:06 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 29, 2014 MYT 1:52:06 AM

Alves backed from all sides over banana incident

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona, a host of fellow players and even the Italian prime minister have backed Daniel Alves after he produced a clever riposte to a racist taunt involving a banana when taking a corner during Sunday's La Liga game at Villarreal.

Alves, who has previously taken a stand against racism at matches in Spain, grabbed the banana thrown in front of him on to the pitch, quickly peeled it and took a bite before tossing away the skin and completing the kick.

"We are all monkeys, we are all the same, say no to racism," Alves's Barca and Brazil team mate Neymar wrote on his Twitter feed with a picture of him holding a peeled banana, one of a number of high-profile players who expressed their support in a similar fashion.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi even got in on the act, pointedly munching a banana along with Italy coach Cesare Prandelli to show their backing for Alves.

Barca earlier pledged their "complete support and solidarity" with the player and referred to "insults he was subject to from a section of the crowd".

They also thanked Villarreal for immediately condemning those responsible.

"Barcelona accepts that the perpetrators of these insults are in no way connected to Villarreal and we value very positively the support the club offered to our player," Barca said.

"The club's immediate condemnation of the incidents is a step in the right direction to firstly isolate and then eradicate completely from the sporting arena this kind of behaviour."

Villarreal said they had identified the culprit, whom they did not name, and had withdrawn their membership and banned them from the stadium for life.

"At the same time, Villarreal CF reiterates its strong support for respect, equality, sporting behaviour and fair play both on and off the pitch," the club said on their website.

They also expressed their "absolute condemnation" of any act that violated those principles, such as "violence, discrimination, racism or xenophobia".

European football has long been blighted by racist incidents involving fans and their leagues criticised for not doing enough to stamp them out.

UEFA has been running a high-profile campaign to try to counter racist behaviour and promote respect.

Alves complained of abuse last year after being taunted by monkey chants from sections of the crowd during a King's Cup semi-final at Real Madrid and labelled Spain's efforts to tackle the problem a "lost war".

Angel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) and a UEFA and FIFA vice president, made a brief comment on the incident on Monday, saying "Spanish football is against racism and xenophobia".

The federation's competition committee would be looking into it, he added.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Alvarenga in Lisbon, writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer/Martyn Herman)

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