Controversial striker Luis Suarez has joined the growing number of players showing their support for Barcelona defender Dani Alves over his racial abuse by posting a picture of himself alongside Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho eating a banana, with the latest action splitting opinion within the football world.
The striker was infamously banned for eight matches after he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in 2011, but having received another lengthy suspension of 10 games after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic at the end of last season, the 27-year-old has somewhat gone through a year of redemption that was capped with the accolade of being named the PFA Player of the Year on Sunday.
The picture was uploaded by Suarez onto his official Twitter account, with the caption: “With my mate @Phil_Coutinho #SayNoToRacism #WeAreAllMonkeys.”
The hashtag was started by Alves’ Catalan team-mate Neymar, who posted a similar picture with his son in support of the Brazilian defender. Alves was preparing to take a corner at the El Madrigal stadium when a Villarreal fan threw a banana onto the pitch in front of him.
Instead of reacting, Alves calmly picked it up, peeled the fruit and took a bite before taking the corner as if nothing had happened, and he has been widely applauded from fellow professionals and those in the wider game, such as Gary Lineker and both Barcelona and Villarreal – who later confirmed they had identified the culprit and banned him for life.
Suarez’s picture came after similar posts from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Napoli’s Dries Martins, while Alves himself has admitted "You need to take these situations with a dose of humour" having been racially abused in the past during his time in Spain.
The 30-year-old even joked that it helped him to avoid cramping up later in the game when speaking on Spanish radio.
Given that Suarez has enjoyed such a phenomenal year on the pitch while cutting out the controversies that have blighted his career, it is fair to assume the Uruguayan has learnt from his previous mistakes. Having been available for the Reds since his 10-match suspension, which carried over from last season, expired after the first six matches, Suarez has netted 30 times and has drawn praise for his maturity this campaign, with the most glowing of reports coming from his manager Brendan Rodgers.
The Liverpool manager’s latest praise came after his award triumph on the weekend, in which he lauded the striker’s “intelligence” off the field and his ability to produce a magical moment on it.
“Probably what people don't see with Luis is that he's a very, very highly intelligent man off the field - and maybe sometimes in the past that intelligence on the field hasn't been seen so much - but that imagination is part of how we work,” said Rodgers.
“I love players that have that technical ability. That's what we've built our template on over the past 20 months and he's at the top end of that. That's the beauty of him. It's that invention and creativity that we love.
“He's a player from the street and that's something that in this country we've been looking to identify. He's just relentless in his work. Every second of the day, in training, he's just non-stop.
“He has been coached but it hasn't been coached out of him. He has been allowed to flourish.
“In and around the box, he's magical.”
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