Shockingly, it might just be a club tradition gone badly awry.
During the Europa League match between Feyenoord and Roma, Ivorian forward Gervinho appeared to have an inflatable banana thrown in his direction by the Dutch club’s fans.
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The match was immediately suspended by the referee whilst the crowd were calmed before Roma went on to win 2-1 and advance to the competition’s last-16.
On the surface it looks a pretty open and shut case of abhorrent racism but following the incident, Feyenoord manager Eric Gudde claimed it was merely an unfortunate coincidence.
The banana, said Gudde, was a stunt that has happened for years at the club and did not mean supporters of the Dutch club were racists.
And whilst that may sound like a petty excuse, Gudde may actually have a point with a Feyenoord fanzine publishing an article in 2010 mentioning the club’s tradition of brandishing the blown-up fruit at matches and the reasons for it.
It’s not for racial reasons says the wonderfully named; Lunatic News, but a tribute to what it calls ‘old-school football humour’.
Fans have been seen brandishing inflatable bananas at Feyenoord’s group, De Kuip since the early 90s, according to the article, and was a tradition taken from England according to a 1989 Daily Telegraph article the site quotes.
“Today’s fans prefer to leave home equipped with inflatable fruit, preferably bananas, with-which to demonstrate Their approval of the skills deployed on the park. Suddenly, bananas are everywhere.”
The tradition began at Manchester City with the arrival of Imre Varadi, a white player from England, who became affectionately known as Imre Banana.
(Granted, at this point we know how ridiculous this sounds but a quick search for Varadi finds a Twitter account with the handle “@imrebanana” who despite being unverified, is followed by a number of football journalists.)
And it quickly became customary of clubs from all around England to bring inflatable tributes to their stars with Arsenal also bringing blow-up bananas to games – because cannons were too difficult to make apparently.
The practice was quickly shut down by stewards and police after fans were apparently even brining airbeds and inflatable dinghies to grounds.
Therefore, perhaps the unfortunate incident on Thursday night was actually was a Feyenoord tradition gone badly awry, and the club’s fans weren’t intentionally trying to be racist.
It remains to be seen whether UEFA will believe such a claim from the club and whether or not they will take action against Feyenoord.