Brazil legend Pele has called on Brazilian league players to follow Daniel Alves' example when it comes to dealing with racism during matches, following a ban dealt to four-time Brazilian Cup winner Gremio for the behaviour of their fans.
Brazil's sports tribunal voted unanimously last week to exclude Gremio from the Brazilian Cup, the nation's second-most important competition behind the Brazilian league. The unprecedented ruling came less than a week after a small group of Gremio fans called Santos goalkeeper Aranha a "monkey" and were caught on camera making monkey noises toward the player at the Arena Gremio in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
The court also fined the team coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari more than $20,000 and banned a 23-year-old woman identified as responsible for the insults for two years.
"Last year, when Dani Alves [Barcelona's right-back] was going to take a corner kick, someone threw a banana at the pitch. He peeled the banana, ate it and took the corner. Nobody talked about it again. It was an act of racism [against him]. I think that if Dani had taken the banana and had thrown it back to stands, we would still be talking about it today," Pele said.
Pele, who scored 77 goals for Brazil between 1957 and 1971, encouraged the league's players to follow Alves' example and admonished Brazilian media for over-publicising the incident.
"I think that Aranha precipitated himself a little bit by wanting to fight the supporters," he said. "If I had to stop or shout [to the referee] every time since I started to play in Latin America, here in Brazil, in its interior, every time I was racially abused, every game would have to be stopped.
"I think we have to fight racism. But prohibition will not come in a public way. There was a time where Santos FC had Dorval, a black right winger. Pele was black. Mengalvio was black. Coutinho was black. Santos were world champions with only Pepe being white," Pele said. "When we had to play in the interior of Brazil, they called us every word possible. Did you ever hear about any news on racism at that time? It was because we didn't give publicity to this. I think that when we have more publicity on something like this, the more likely it is that it will happen again."
Racism is a crime in Brazil punishable with up to three years in prison.
Gremio, which is appealing the sports tribunal's decision, said it initially identified five people as responsible for the racial insults against Aranha in the Aug. 28 match won by Santos 2-0. The second leg in the tournament's round of 16 remains suspended until a final ruling is made.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.