Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Was Neymar targeted with racial taunts?

Young Latin American soccer stars such as Chile’s Matias Fernandez and Mexico’s Javier Hernandez have shined during international friendlies this week. Nineteen-year-old Neymar was easily the best of the bunch after scoring twice in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Scotland at London’s Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Sadly, allegations of racial abuse have overshadowed the impressive shutout by Brazil.

As he was preparing to convert a penalty kick near the end of the match, a banana was thrown from the crowd and landed near Neymar. Teammate Lucas Leiva tossed the fruit away and insinuated after the game that the fruit was thrown as a sign of racism. Moreover, Neymar interpreted the booing against him by Scottish supporters as part of an “atmosphere of racism” against him.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) reacted by strongly rebuking the claims of racism while a spokesman for the Tartan Army supporters group said that “Neymar was booed was because we believed he was feigning injury.” Their claims appeared to be supported by an investigation by the Metropolitan Police and Arsenal Football Club who play their home matches at the Emirates. Their probe concluded that “a German teenage tourist” sitting in an area “occupied by the official allocation of tickets to Brazil supporters” threw the banana in question. "The Metropolitan Police is satisfied there was no racist intent and have confirmed that no further action will be taken," said a statement issued by Arsenal via the SFA.

The Brazilian Football Federation has thus far rejected issuing a formal complaint regarding either the banana-throwing incident or the booing. While it could be argued that Neymar was been overreacting another Brazilian player may’ve been the target of racism from fans:
Zenit St Petersburg have launched an investigation into an alleged incident of racist abuse involving former Brazil international Roberto Carlos…

A photograph has since emerged of a supporter appearing to wave a banana in the direction of the former Real Madrid star as the two teams entered the field.

Zenit have condemned the alleged incident, and vowed to step up their efforts to stamp out racism by working closely with the country's governing body and the police.
Neymar could soon join one of Arsenal’s fiercest London rivals- Chelsea- as part of a rumored $48 million deal that could be completed in the next few months.

Image- AP via The Telegraph (“On the spot: Neymar pushed his asking price up by scoring twice against Scotland, including this penalty.”)
Online Sources- The Canadian Press, San Jose Mercury News, ESPN Soccernet, Reuters, The Guardian, Bloomberg

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