Going bananas over racism

Going bananas over racism

Fans of Inter Milan recently brought bananas to a game in order to show disrespect to their former striker Mario Balotelli. The insult is obvious; the Black Italian is labeled a monkey.

Although he was raised by Italian foster parents, is a citizen and plays for the Azzurri and AC Milan, the 22-year old is not exempt from this despicable behaviour.

Before Balotelli was born, there was an incident that involved real bananas that were thrown at a Jamaican-born player, notably England and Liverpool legend John Barnes, and he dealt with it in a way that probably made his critics loath him more.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Barnes at a Soccerex conference about five years ago and asked him about racism in football, specifically how he dealt with it. At the time another former Liverpool player- Emile Heskey - was experiencing racism at football stadiums.

Barnes reply was quick and simple: "It's like water off a ducks back, it never fazed me."

This former player was all about playing the game, his demeanor respectful, his vast experience showed and more so he came across as someone that is passionate about the beautiful game only. He was oblivious to the racists and if his attitude did not show it then his actions certainly did.

There is a famous picture of Barnes in Liverpool kit back-heeling a banana; this happened at Goodison Park against their city rivals Everton. It looks natural and probably is, a footballer responding to a flying object by kicking it deftly, with his heel - imperious.

Besides that he scored a wonder goal in Brazil that helped England beat them in Rio de Janeiro and he played a major role in the Reds success winning the FA Cup twice, the league twice and the Charity Shield thrice. And all this he did with monkey chants and racial slurs.

What's more is that Barnes rapped as well. That's right, the man loaned this skill to New Order's song 'World in motion' at the time of the 1990 World Cup - it's considered a great football song.

This riposte is unique and his image, his scintillating runs, his spectacular goals all etched in to the memories of those who loved him as their own and those who hated the colour of the skin.

It is now more than a quarter of a century later and Balotelli and Kevin Prince-Boateng, among others, are still experiencing the idiocy of fans. It's not limited to England or Italy, but in many parts of Europe it is prominent and the authorities, well, they only talk about dealing with the insolent lot.

Talk is really cheap when it comes to confronting racism and while Balotelli and Boateng have not reached the legendary status of Barnes (yet) they can take a massive tip from this football genius and back-heel the banana.

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war - Bob Marley

By Shahied Joseph