Dani Alves eats banana thrown at him during a soccer match
The Barcelona player was taking a corner at Villarreal's El Madrigal stadium
NEW: FIFA president Sepp Blatter calls incident an "outrage"
NEW: Villarreal find culprit and have banned him for life
Barcelona’s Dani Alves reverted to humor when dealing with racist abuse but it has proved no laughing matter for the Villarreal fan who threw a banana at him during Sunday’s match after being handed a life ban by the La Liga club.
Villarreal issued a statement Monday saying it “deeply regrets” the incident. “The club has identified the person responsible and has decided to withdraw his membership card and prohibit access to the El Madrigal Stadium for life,” it added.
Brazilian international Alves was taking a corner during Barca’s 3-2 win when the banana landed at his feet. Maintaining his composure, Alves picked up the banana, peeled it and took a bite and got on with the game.
“Dani Alves owned him,” tweeted the Brazilian’s teammate Neymar. “Take That bunch of Racists. We are all Monkeys So What.”
Former England international Gary Lineker, who played for Barcelona, also applauded Alves’ quick thinking. “Utterly brilliant reaction from Alves,” tweeted Lineker. “Treat the racist berk with complete disdain.”
After the match, the 30-year-old Alves posted a clip of the incident on Instagram, joking his father had always told him to eat bananas to prevent cramp.
It’s not the first time the Barcelona defender has been targeted – in January 2013 Alves claimed he was abused during Barca’s Copa del Rey semifinal match against archrivals Real Madrid.
“We have suffered this in Spain for some time,” he told reporters. “You have to take it with a dose of humor.”
“We aren’t going to change things easily. If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”
As well as banning the culprit, Villarreal also said they would act swiftly again if a similar incident occurred in the future.
“Villarreal football club again states its firm stance in favor of respect, equality and good sportsmanship and a clean game both on the playing field and off it, and states its total rejection of any act that goes against those principles, such as violence, discrimination, racism or xenophobia.”
Sunday’s match was Barca’s first game since the death of former coach Tito Vilanova on Friday.
Barca went 2-0 down against seventh-placed Villarreal before launching a stirring fightback in the final half hour.
A Gabriel Paulista own-goal on 65 minutes gave Tata Martino’s team hope before a second own goal, this time from Mateo Mussachio, levelled the match with 12 minutes remaining.
Argentina star Lionel Messi won the match for Barca in the 83rd minute to leave the Catalan club four points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid with three matches left to play.
The two teams meet on the final day of the season.
During 2013 European football was hit by several incidents of racism, notably when Kevin Prince-Boateng walked off the pitch during a friendly match between his then club AC Milan and a lower-league Italian side.
That incident prompted FIFA to introduce tougher sanctions for racist abuse and the president of the world governing body, Sepp Blatter, was quick to condemn the treatment accorded to Alves.
He tweeted: “What @DaniAlvesD2 tolerated last night is an outrage. We must fight all forms of discrimination united. Will be zero tolerance at WorldCup.”
Under the sanctions, punishments for first offenses bring a warning, fine or clubs 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.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches in December 2011 after he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
A second lengthy ban was imposed on the Uruguayan towards the end of the 2012-13 season after Suarez bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, meaning he missed the first five games of the current Premier League season.
But since his return, Suarez has been sensational. He has scored 30 league goals to spearhead Liverpool’s title challenge and on Sunday his contribution was recognized after he was named the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
It was a bittersweet day for Suarez with the award coming hours after Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat against Chelsea.
The defeat ended Liverpool’s 11-match winning run and handed the initiative to Manchester City in the race for the championship.