Spanish police they have laid criminal charges against a football fan for throwing a banana at Barcelona defender Dani Alves, a slur that has sparked a global storm of anti-racist protest.
The Spanish authorities arrested the young man Tuesday, two days after the ugly incident put racism in Spanish football under a harsh spotlight, unleashing condemnation worldwide including from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The suspect, who has been named and pilloried on social media but has not been identified by the authorities, was charged on the same day with an offence against civil rights and liberties before being released, a police spokeswoman said.
If found guilty, he could face a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The banana landed on the pitch near the 30-year-old Brazilian international as he was about to take a corner during Barcelona’s away match against Villareal on Sunday night.
Alves won praise for his reaction, picking up the banana to take a bite before getting on with the game and setting up a goal in Barcelona’s dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
Villarreal condemned the incident and said they had identified the culprit, withdrawing his club membership and permanently banning him from their ground.
“The player Dani Alves gave a daring and strong response to racism in sports,” Brazil’s leader said in a series of Twitter messages after the match.
Blatter also reacted on Twitter, saying: “What @DaniAlves2 tolerated last night is an outrage. We must fight all forms of discrimination united. Will be zero tolerance at #World Cup.”
The FIFA boss spread his anti-racism message Wednesday to the United States after the NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for racist comments.