When asking a stranger to list the first three issues that come to mind, that they feel we have to contend with in 2014 they said: Government spending cuts, the Ukraine crisis and climate change.
Now, asking an avid sports fan what three issues they feel we have to contend with in football in 2014 they said: Inequality – in particular racism and homophobia, fan violence and match fixing.
Just because racism may not be at the top of most peoples list of world problems we face today, racism is still an enormous obstacle we face and one that we seem to not be able to overcome. In particular, sports such as football where there are so many influential players and so little solidarity.
On Sunday 27th April during the intense game between Villareal and Barcelona, Dani Alves reacted to racism in a way that we rarely see from footballers – as they’re frequently criticised for behaving badly.
As the Barcelona defender was about to take a corner, an opposition fan threw a banana on to the pitch, followed by the crowd chanting monkey noises at the Brazilian player – something of a regular occurrence in many games. In return Alves picked up the banana, unpeeled it and ate it before proceeding to take his kick.
What’s hard to believe is that the same thing happened 26 years ago to former Liverpool player, John Barnes. It must be said that prejudice is nowhere near as bad now as it once was, but why is this type of behaviour still happening nearly three decades later?
According to the Daily Mail in 2012, Manchester United claimed that 10% of the world supported them while according to FIFA, 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 World Cup with the 2010 World Cup being broadcast to 204 countries.
Although football may not be for everyone, these figures certainly show that the game and the players have a major impact over the generations of children, teenagers and adults who love the game. Not to mention children’s biggest influencers, their parents, who encourage and support them to play for their local team.
Yet when considering the above and the popularity of the sports – how it could affect a child’s opinion of different cultures and how they treat other children in the playground at school, racism seems to be unshakable in football.
Although the behaviour to Alves has been recognised as despicable with the culprit receiving a lifetime ban from the stadium, his response may be the best thing to happen to racism in the game.
The camaraderie displayed on social media has been incredible, as Alves has been praised by the likes of ex-England striker and TV presenter Gary Lineker who tweeted: “Utterly brilliant reaction from Alves. Treat the racist berk with complete disdain”.
While the player has also inadvertently sparked a new ‘banana selfie’ trend with players tweeting images eating bananas using the hashtag #SayNoToRacism, #WeAreAllMonkeys and #KickRacismOutOfFootball. Players have been showing unity for Alves including team mate Neymar, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez, who I’m sure is trying to redeem his ways after being accused of racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011.
Fans worldwide have joined the craze, in a response never seen before to one of the biggest issues in football.
In a statement by Barcelona the club said: “Barcelona urges all clubs to continue fighting against the blight on the game which any kind of aggression against a sportsperson on the basis of their race represents.” With the Spanish media also reporting that the incident will be discussed during the country’s football association, RFEF, this week.
This follows the ‘no-makeup selfie’, which saw women everywhere post images bare-faced online in support of actress Kim Novak who was criticised for her looks and which again inadvertently raised millions for Cancer.
Recent social media campaigns have proven to help the world for the better, all that fans can hope for now is that the trend continues to grow and may start to put racism to bed in the game once and for all.
Perhaps if so, social media will help in aiding Government spending cuts, the Ukraine crisis and climate change.
Over to you. Do you think the ‘banana selfie’ will have an impact on racism in football?
If you liked this post then check out – How Cancer Research ran a winning campaign by doing nothing: The No Makeup Selfie