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John Barnes questions football's anti-racism strategy

By Tom McGowan, CNN
May 9, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
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Barnes criticism
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Alves bites back
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Barnes says football must change its approach to tackling racism
  • The former Liverpool great had a banana thrown at him during a match in 1987
  • Barcelona's Dani Alves was subjected to similar abuse recently against Villarreal
  • Barnes says football must focus on education rather than sanctions

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(CNN) -- "You can be as racist as you want, as long as you keep your mouth shut," says John Barnes.

The former Liverpool great should know.

The Jamaican-born England international was subjected to racist abuse including an infamous incident 27 years ago when a fan threw a banana at him during a Merseyside derby between Liverpool and rivals Everton.

Barnes kicked the piece of fruit away. Fast forward to 2014 and Barcelona's Dani Alves was similarly taunted, though the Brazilian picked up and ate the banana that had been hurled at him by a Villarreal supporter.

According to Barnes, the fact that bananas are still been throwing at games shows football's approach to tackling discrimination is befuddled.

"The way we're trying to deal with it, in terms of getting rid of it, is wrong," Barnes, who played for England between 1983 and 1995, told CNN at a promotional event for YO! Sushi aimed at encouraging fans to back Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

"Only through education and making people know why it's wrong to do it.

"Just by saying to people 'You're not allowed to do it' without telling them why, explaining to them why... Or fining them when they do it, so they just keep their mouth shut is not getting rid of it.

"Do we want to get rid of racism? Or do we want just not to hear it? What football is saying, by fining and banning people, is 'You can be as racist as you want, but as long as you keep your mouth shut it's fine.'

Soccer star's reaction to tossed banana
Dani Alves has been applauded for his response to being racially abused during a football match. The Barcelona player had a banana thrown at him during Sunday's game at Villarreal, so he picked it up and took a bite out of it before continuing to play. Dani Alves has been applauded for his response to being racially abused during a football match. The Barcelona player had a banana thrown at him during Sunday's game at Villarreal, so he picked it up and took a bite out of it before continuing to play.
Dani Alves bites back
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Dani Alves bites back Dani Alves bites back

"That's not what I'm interested in."

Read: Is racism endemic in Spanish football?

One week after Alves was abused, Levante's Senegalese player Papakouli Diop claimed he heard monkey chants from Atletico Madrid supporters.

His response was to dance in front of his alleged abusers but, while he fully support Alves' actions, Barnes questioned Diop's reaction.

"I think Alves showed disdain, he showed disregard," he added. "He showed that if you're being bullied and the bullies aren't effecting you, they will stop bullying you.

"If you react to it, they will continue to do it. From a playing perspective, I think that's the right way to respond."

While praising Villarreal for acting swiftly to ban the fan who threw the banana at Alves, Barnes warned that football might be fighting a losing battle in trying to eradicate racist abuse.

English football has spent decades battling the scourge of racism. England manager Roy Hodgson (right) apologized after referring to Andros Townsend (left) as "the monkey" while telling an old NASA joke during a halftime team talk last year. In defense of his manager, Townsend tweeted: "I don't know what all this fuss is about....No offense was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy." English football has spent decades battling the scourge of racism. England manager Roy Hodgson (right) apologized after referring to Andros Townsend (left) as "the monkey" while telling an old NASA joke during a halftime team talk last year. In defense of his manager, Townsend tweeted: "I don't know what all this fuss is about....No offense was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy."
Race relations
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Is England winning racism battle? Is England winning racism battle?
Dani Alves responded by picking up a banana and eating it after finding himself the target of racial abuse during Barcelona's 3-2 win at Villarreal Sunday. Dani Alves responded by picking up a banana and eating it after finding himself the target of racial abuse during Barcelona's 3-2 win at Villarreal Sunday.
Get up, stand up
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Football\'s fight against racism Football's fight against racism

"These aren't football's problems. Until we get rid of it in society, we won't get rid of it in football," added Barnes, who memorably scored a remarkable solo goal in the Maracana stadium against Brazil in a 1-0 friendly win for England in June 1984.

"From an institutional perspective, yes you ban the fan, as the club did, if you've got to close stadiums, fine players or take points off clubs, that's what you do."

Football's world governing body FIFA introduced a series of punishments after a number of high-profile racism cases in 2013.

The punishments for a first offense is a warning, fine or the club in question being forced to play games in empty stadiums.

A second offense, or one deemed "serious," could result in demotion, a deduction of points or expulsion from a tournament.

Read: Dani Alves winning racism fight

Read: Pele expects "fantastic" World Cup

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