Brazil club punished for racially abusing referee

SAO PAULO (AP) — A sports tribunal has ordered a club in southern Brazil to play five matches away from its stadium because its fans racially abused a referee during a match.

The tribunal also fined Esportivo about $13,000 after some of its supporters allegedly called the referee a "monkey" and told him to "return to the jungle" in a match in the Rio Grande do Sul state championship on March 5. The fans also vandalized the referee's car and left bananas on top of it.

Esportivo was in danger of being banned from this year's regional tournament but the tribunal decided late Thursday only to keep the team from playing at its stadium in the city of Bento Goncalves in its next five home matches.

The club can appeal.

At the time of the trial, referee Marcio Chagas da Silva was in Brasilia meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who invited him and two Brazilian players also targeted by racist taunts recently.

One of them was Cruzeiro midfielder Tinga, who last month heard "monkey" chants every time he touched the ball during a Copa Libertadores match in Peru.

The other player was Santos midfielder Arouca, who also was taunted with "monkey" chants while being interviewed by reporters after a match in the Sao Paulo state championship last week. Arouca was not able to meet with the president because he said he had previous commitments with his club.

Mogi Mirim, whose fans were allegedly responsible for the taunts against Arouca, is also expected to be punished by a sports tribunal.

The recent racism cases made front-page headlines in the country that will host the World Cup in three months. Rousseff had already publicly condemned the racist incidents, saying "sports can never serve as a stage for prejudice."

Players and fans carried banners with anti-racism messages in several matches last weekend and more are planned in upcoming matches. In its next game, Santos will wear a uniform with the words "black with pride" on it.

FIFA has sponsored anti-racism campaigns in Europe that have had modest levels of success, and it has promised to raise more awareness during this year's World Cup.

Rousseff said on her Twitter account recently that she has already talked to the U.N. and to FIFA to make the World Cup in Brazil the "World Cup for Peace" and the "World Cup Against Racism."


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