F.C. Barcelona defender Dani Alves became an internet superstar last week for his response to racist abuse from Spanish soccer fans — when a fan threw a banana at Alves, the Brazilian picked it up and ate it before carrying on with the match.
Alves, who called the fight against racism in soccer “a lost war” just a year ago, drew praise from around the world for the response, and a Twitter campaign featuring players and fans holding bananas took off. The campaign sought to draw attention to the widespread racial abuse players like Alves face in Spain and elsewhere — and it didn’t take long for more proof to emerge.
This weekend, it happened again.
As his Levante side closed out a win against league-leading side Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Senegalese midfielder Papakouli Diop ended up on the wrong end of racist abuse from Atletico fans. In response to monkey chants and gestures, Diop turned to the crowd, flashed two middle fingers, and sent the monkey gestures right back to them.
“They called me a monkey so I acted like a monkey. I’m tired of the racism in soccer. It’s too much,” Diop said afterward, according to Marca.com.
In this Vine of the incident (via Deadspin), it’s easy to see fans making monkey gestures at Diop as the final whistle blows:
High-profile incidents of racism in Spanish soccer aren’t hard to find. National team coach Luis Aragonés referred to French striker Thierry Henry as “black shit” in 2004; the same year, Spanish fans pelted England’s black players with racist chants during an international match. In 2006, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o nearly walked off the pitch after facing racist abuse from fans. Real Madrid fans abused Alves with racist chants last year, and in February, Atletico fans targeted Real Madrid defender Marcelo, who is also Brazilian, with monkey chants as he warmed up on the sidelines.
Combating racism in soccer has been a focal point for FIFA in recent years, and it has made progress in some places. England’s Football Association has found success in fighting racism by levying heavy fines against clubs whose fans exhibit racist behavior, and UEFA, the sport’s European governing body, has tried to limit racism by fining teams and forcing them to play in front of empty stadiums as punishment for their fans’ racial taunts. Last week, Villareal, the club whose fans threw the banana at Alves, responded by banning the offending fan from attending matches for life, and the Spanish football association said that there is “no room” for such behavior at its matches.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Donald Sterling racism fiasco last week was that NBA players were able to exert their influence on how the league reacted to it — after players like LeBron James and others spoke out and the Clippers staged their own protest — the NBA decided to ban Sterling for life and will attempt to force a sale of his team. In Spain, where officials have gone so far as to deny that racism exists — in 2012, Angel Villa Llona, head of Spain’s football association, told reporters that “there is no racism in Spanish football” — the responses of players like Alves and Diop have similarly drawn widespread attention to racism in the sport in a way that will (hopefully) cause Spanish and European officials to finally take action against the widespread racism they have largely ignored in the past.