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