Going Bananas: The Cancer of Racism



It was a sad time for football and everyone associated with the Catalan giants the other day as the demise of one of the most promising coaches in football, Tito Vilanova, who bowed to the throttling fist of cancer of the throat, was announced. Here was a fine young man who harbored fine prospects for the game. His short stint at the helm only saw him claim the highly rated La liga title last year after coming back from a surgery to remove a tumor in New York. He had managed to retain the title at the end of the season in spite of the periods he missed due to treatments.

Tito Vilanova would best be remembered for being the number two man that assisted the record-breaking Josep Guardiola in what has been scribbled into the record books of Catalan historians as the finest era ever recorded in their rich history which saw them bag 14 trophies in 4 years out of a possible 19. Tito was said to be the unsung number 2 man whose contribution to the team was no doddle. He was said to have commanded the respect of the key players at Camp Nou and when the heat turned up  on Guardiola and he had to bow out, there was no doubting who was to replace him.

Today, Barcelona is not the team we used to know. Perhaps the law of diminishing returns is catching up on them; the players are aging and the rest of the world have found an antidote to their possessive style of play(tiki-taka) that tends to skyrocket them to the realms of immortals at times. But then, it would only linger in our imagination what could have happened had Tito been healthy enough to lead the team for more years.

Looking back at the career of this gentleman who bowed to the menace of cancer at the untimely age of 45, a prime age for a football manager, one would suspect that he had always had a hard time with fate and was always missing out when it mattered most. Tito himself was once a player who started his career in the prestigious Barcelona academy that birthed the likes of Lionel Messi. However, for some reason, he never made it to the first team. He was forced to find solace elsewhere, having spells at Celta Vigo and Mallorca, before his career abruptly ended with a knee injury.

As the football world was still grappling with this unfortunate demise, and while  the phantom of Tito will still be hovering around the Camp Nou where the faithfuls are still mourning, and while the players would be looking for a succor to stanch the bleeding of their heart especially in a moment that met them with series of bad results, they were yet hit by another cancer. This time it wasn’t the cancer of the throat that left us with a deficit of a fine gentleman as Tito, it was the cancer of racism. And just like all cancers, it’s proving to be hard to cure.

It so happened that during a game between FC Barcelona and Villareal at the Estadio El Madrigal, a fan still infected with this benign tumor sought to extend the infection to another fellow in person of Dani Alves. The discombobulated fellow threw a piece of banana to the field, a familiar gesture with infantile racists who think that throwing a piece of banana is a sign that one is a monkey. But like a good monkey who can’t resist the succulent taste of banana, Dani Alves picked up the banana and feasted on it as if it was his niche. It was a fine gesture that mocked the intent of the buffoon who threw the banana  and one that sparked a talk on racism in football and in the world (#weareallmonkeys).

But just in case anyone is getting irked by the gesture of monkeys, it is not something new, yet if the Theory of Evolution is anything to consider, monkeys and baboons alike are actually our cousins! We share some consanguinity in some sense.  The race this is targeted at also is the prototype that birthed all other races. it was first in Africa that our specie was discovered! While the ignorant racist thinks we are monkeys, it is indeed a cousin to the human race—it so just happened that we also love monkeys like our cousins.

The niche of our specie which started from Africa was actually bones. We thrived in the sucking of bone marrows because we weren’t  strong enough to compete with other creatures back then so when they are all done with their food which was predominantly animal meats,—we feed on the marrow of leftover bones. So maybe the racist should start considering throwing bones. The only problem is that he should be ready to provide us with archaeological proofs that he never owed his existence to that specie too. If he’s not able to do that, then he’s just blatantly—stupid.

Racism and acts of racism should be greeted with disdain and not given any serious thought just like Dani Alves did. Such gestures only emerges from myopic minds and dysfunctional species whose only shot at getting attention is to latch on to this ignoble act. It reminds me of the Nigerian adage that it is ridiculous when a kettle calls a pot black. The attitude of that fan who threw that banana clearly shows that there are still some elements in our midst who will not stop playing the race card no matter how hard the comity of nations and the rest of us try. I suspect that there would be no antidote to that any time soon. This is something we have to tolerate or click ignore to, if it were clickable. Or better still munch the banana.

While it later panned out that Dani Alves gesture was a premeditated response cooked up by an ad agency to stanch out racism and spark an awareness campaign, one that Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior too was waiting to fall victim of, it didn’t change the fact that racists belong to the annals  of the world’s infamous past. It is good that that Villareal fan was banned for life because such a one carrying an infection of race would pose a high risk to the rest of us. He needs to be cured of his cancer and the antidote is for the rest of us to stop getting infuriated by throws of banana. I strongly suspect the antidote to this type of cancer actually lies in the munching of the banana itself. So it’s really a nice thing to see the world go bananas!


O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “The Soccer Side of Life” will be released soon.

Follow him on Twitter@opphilips



Atletico de Madrid and the power of teamwork!

Giggsy Chelsea-v-Atletico-MadridChelsea-v-Atletico-Madrid

Last Wednesday, Atletico de Madrid destroyed knocked  out Europe’s bogey team—Chelsea FC, in the semi-finals of the European Champions League in a rather emphatic manner and afterwards  rival fans went agog on social media posting pictures of the Ill-fated Chelsea’s bus that was crushed at Stamford Bridge!  Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. Not that the latter are so invincible though, in fact they are far from it, but  in recent years, in what I dub the Abramovic era, since the extra pumping in of cash and  the evolution  that engulfed with Claudio Ranieri, they’ve formed an enviable habit of never-say-die and when you write them off, you do so at your own peril.

It is still fresh in the memory of soccer aficionados all over the world how they managed to wriggle from the brink of collapse in the 2012 Champions league campaign, a season that characterized them with lousy performances, but saw them attain the heights that was  hitherto a reverie, galloping their way through a fusillade of hurdles to an unprecedented European glory. I could remember that finals at the Allianz Arena where the whole atmosphere was tainted red while bubbling with the energy of expectant  fans who must have thought that fate have connived with them to set up a dream European final right in their home soil. Little would they know that the little horse, a term Jose Mourinho would prefer to tag his Chelsea pack this season, had other ideas—talking about party spoilers!What happened afterward is something that won’t worth any further elaboration—we know who went home with what. And even if they have been inconsistent in the English Premier League this season, Chelsea have managed to beat all the title contenders and are primed to be crowned champions should any of the champions-elect slip up. Liverpool won’t forgive them if they end up this season without the EPL coveted jewel after going so agonizingly close!

But thankfully today, I’m not here to talk about Chelsea or the tactics of the Special One (please spare me)! To the Blues chagrin, Atletico Madrid gave us something to shout about after Mourinho was almost forcing his way to Lisbon, parking the bus! Now, I can talk about Atleti and their brand of soccer. The outfit in red and white has been the surprise package of the season. Well maybe not so surprising after all if you consider their steady ascent to the echelons of European soccer since Diego Pablo Simeone, former Argentine International, a fine and controversial player in his days, took over a few years back. He has built one solid pack that thrives in unrivaled work ethic and has continued to post consistent results since then. In the past three years or so, the clubs trophy cabinet has been burgeoning—they’ve added two Europa cups, Super cup (beating Chelsea by 4-1) and winning the Copa del Rey at the Santiago Bernabeu against the Galacticos.

Another thing about this club is that it doesn’t break the bank to get the job done. They lose players to richer clubs every other summer, but the way they recover from that is pure genius. In recent years they’ve shed quality players like: Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Sergio “Kun” Aguero, David De Gea. From the outset of this season, Atletico has been jostling  for top positions in  La Liga with the  richest franchise in football—Real Madrid, where a Gareth Bale for example—would cost  more than double  their entire team, and FC Barcelona with their  fat wage stars. In such a space that is dominated by these global heavy weights, Atletico has competed fine all season and are still  sitting pretty at the helm with no sign of relenting with just a few games to go. They’ve also  set up themselves for a dream European final—the first that would have teams from the same city contending for European glory, and their first appearance at this elite stage in 40 years. There is so much to say about this impressive side but I’m concerned about how they are able to achieve this feat. Is it because they have a perfectionist as  coach who will rant and rave in his customary black slim fit designer garb at the touchline like a child who desperately wants something off the shelf at the mall, or could it be that they have a generation of players that are so talented that it would take hindsight to appreciate their propensities?  Look no further, we could get a clue from Simeone’s response after the emphatic dismissal of Chelsea on Wednesday night:”Tonight was the result of a big collective effort. We generated that possibility of us reaching a beautiful final. It was a smashing game in the first half, tactically speaking, until the first goal opened it up. They had the first chance but we managed to equalize relatively soon afterwards.”

Teamwork is the key thing in successful soccer teams, which ever lingo you’d want to categorize the style preferred by a particular team—total football, effective football, tikitaka, jogo-bonito, or parking the bus. They all thrive in the ability of a pack to understand one  another so well that they are able to blend; they understand their strengths and weaknesses. In the case of Atletico—they play together all through the park—defensively and offensively. They never say die and they go into games with the mentality that by being together and fostering their strength in a formidable way, they can create paths in a rock. It will be nice to see this team win at least one trophy this season, and why not, the double. But no matter what happens at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa  e Benfica in Lisbon on May 24, this team has already left us with a powerful lesson from soccer— that we can be stronger being together, complementing one another. That’s one way to make the world go round.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “The Soccer Side of Life” will be released soon.

Follow him on Twitter@opphilips