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Racism and football

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When Adam Goodes was called an ape by a young Collingwood supporter last season, some wondered what the fuss was about.

Those people are either ignorant of the long and dehumanising history of racism or, worse, prepared to wilfully ignore it.

If they need the link between racism and such behaviour to be spelled out for them, they need only take a glance at what has been happening in European soccer in recent weeks.

First, a banana was thrown at Barcelona defender Dani Alves, who responded in withering fashion by peeling the fruit and eating it before taking a corner (see this clip). The culprit, David Campayo, was subsequently arrested and handed a lifetime ban from the stadium by Villarreal.

Then, over the weekend, Levante midfielder Pape Diop was the subject of monkey chanting by Atletico Madrid fans as his side inflicted a shock 2-0 defeat on the Spanish league leaders.

Diop provoked outrage among the Atletico players by dancing in front of the disconsolate travelling fans at the final whistle. However, the Senegalese said he was just responding to monkey chants aimed towards him as he took a corner deep into stoppage time. See the actions of the fans in the background of the video below.

“I went to take a corner and some of the Atletico fans began to make monkey chants. To play it down, I started to dance, but I didn’t insult anyone,” Diop said. “I don’t have anything against the Atletico fans because it was only a section that shouted.”

Interestingly, even Diop said “I don’t know if you can call it racist”, but he was adamant that “the monkey chanting has to stop”.

Others have been in no doubt. Alves’ action provoked an international anti-racism campaign across social media with star players of different nationalities and races including Neymar, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez lending their support to the “we are all monkeys” campaign. Even Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tweeted her admiration for “a daring and strong response” to racism.

Alves has continued to conduct himself with class in the wake of the incident. He says he wants some leniency for the banned Spanish fan.

“There does have to be a punishment, but I don’t believe in paying evil with evil,” Alves told Brazilian broadcaster Globo. “People have to educate. You can’t do it in this way,” said Alves, after La Liga outfit Villarreal handed a life ban to the fan who threw the fruit. “It is the strong who forgive.”

He indicated he would be unhappy to see the 26-year-old banana thrower, David Campayo, lose his livelihood if sentenced to jail time. 
“He is a family man and has to support his family by some means.”

The complexity of the issue was evident in the taunting of Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds by crowds in India, as this picture of fans in Mumbai demonstrates.

The fallout from the Adam Goodes affair, meanwhile, has continued, with the Australian of the Year and dual Brownlow Medallist saying that McGuire’s gaffe in the aftermath of the incident ended their friendship.

Goodes told a business breakfast in Sydney on Monday: “Friends don’t make jokes about their friends like that.”

News Corp Australia reported that Goodes said he would still shake the hand of the Collingwood president and broadcaster in a professional environment. “But from a friendship point of view, unfortunately I have lost one there,” Goodes said.

McGuire sparked controversy last May when he suggested on radio that Goodes should be flown down to Melbourne promote the King Kong musical. He later apologised, describing it as a slip of the tongue. (See the video below.)

It came just days after he had apologised to Goodes on behalf of his club after a 13-year-old female Magpies supporter called Goodes an ape.

Goodes told Monday’s Corporate Club Australia breakfast he bore no anger toward the girl but had no regrets about pointing her out and asking security to remove her from the MCG.

“It was just a natural part of what I would do on a footy field,” he said. “It was part of me acting instinctively.

“Would I do the same thing? Yeah I definitely would. Casual racism now is starting to be an issue and people are starting to bring it up in their own circle, their own family and friends.”

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