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Brazil club Gremio banned over racist chants

AFP
Brazil's sports tribunal throws top flight club Gremio out of the national Cup after fans racially insulted a visiting black goalkeeper
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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Top-flight Gremio were thrown out of Brazil's main cup competition Wednesday in an unprecedented punishment for a club in the football-mad country after a visiting goalkeeper was subjected to sustained racial abuse.

Brazil's sports justice tribunal also fined Gremio 50,000 reais ($20,000) after a group of fans of the club from the southern city of Porto Alegre chanted insults and made monkey noises at Santos goalkeeper Aranha during a cup clash on August 28.

Gremio had condemned the fans involved and launched an anti-racism campaign, with the players taking to the field in their last league game holding a banner urging supporters to "say no to racism."

But it is the second racist incident this year involving Gremio, the first earning the club a fine of $35,000.

Separately, one young female supporter clearly seen yelling "macaco" (monkey) at shot-stopper Aranha was suspended from her job and her behavior sparked a storm of outrage on social media.

A spokesman told AFP the tribunal's five judges unanimously made the decision to turf out Gremio, which club chairman Fabio Koff has appealed on behalf of the four-time cup winners, who are now coached by former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

There were also stiff penalties for the officials of the game, which Santos won 2-0.

Match referee Wilton Pereira Sampaio, who indicated afterwards he had not heard the abuse and only mentioned it in his match report after the media drew his attention to it, was suspended for 90 days.

His assistants were handed 60-day suspensions.

- 'Ever more common' -

It is just the latest in a series of racist incidents to blight football in Brazil in recent months.

"Racism is ever more a common occurrence in Brazil, not so much as in Europe, but it is becoming a veritable plague," Marcos Guterman, author of the book "Football explains Brazil," told AFP.

Shocked at racism predating the Gremio case -- in one instance a black referee had bananas thrown at his car -- Brazil's government promised before this year's World Cup to crack down.

Last April, Brazil starlet Neymar publicly waded into the debate by posting a picture of himself on social media eating a banana after Barcelona teammate and compatriot Daniel Alves picked up a banana which had been thrown on the pitch near him during a game in Spain.

Incidents of racism have also marred games in several countries but the punishment usually takes the form of a fine or having to play matches behind closed doors.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has urged harsher penalties, including expulsion from cups and deduction of league points.

Koff told the tribunal Gremio had been trying to clean up its act and was cooperating with investigators, adding the club respected the expulsion -- albeit feeling it was harsh.

"We shall appeal. Gremio has done everything possible to identify those responsible and they have been turned over to the police," he said.

Six seasons ago, Paris Saint-German were kicked out of the French league cup after fans held aloft a banner insulting people hailing from around Lens, their opponents.

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