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Crackdown must be equal

On Friday, several hundred people staged a noisy protest against the lifetime ban meted out to David Campayo, the Villarreal fan who helped turn Dani Alves' banana-eating into a viral phenomenon.

Barcelona's Dani Alves eats the banana thrown by Villareal fan David Campayo
Barcelona's Dani Alves eats the banana thrown by Villareal fan David Campayo

It was Campayo who threw the banana onto the pitch at Villarreal's El Madrigal stadium last week and it was Dani Alves who picked it up, quickly peeled it and took a big bite.

You probably know the rest. Footballers and celebrities of all stripes taking selfies with a banana and the hashtag #weareallmonkeys.

An important show of global solidarity in the fight against racist abuse at football matches? Sure.

So why were those people lending their support to Campayo, who was identified by fellow Villarreal supporters and banned for life from El Madrigal?

The answer adds those layers of complexity that makes things uncomfortable for those who like to see neat division between good and evil, non-racists and racists.

Their objection centres on the fact that, while what Campayo (who, incidentally, is a former Villarreal youth coach) did was wrong and he deserves to be punished, different standards are being applied.

Atletico Madrid fans racially abused Real Madrid's Marcelo earlier this season. Real supporters did the same to Dani last year. And yet those cases went unpunished.

The difference here - they say - is that Villarreal are a smaller club and that Alves' s gesture drew global attention (and a viral campaign). So Campayo was scapegoated.

If the punishment is different the next time this happens - particularly if there is no Barcelona star to make a dramatic and videoclip-friendly gesture - they'll have a point.

That's why it's so important for Spanish football authorities to make sure the next incident is dealt with in exactly the same way. And the one after that.

It shouldn't take a social media campaign to force one of the world's top leagues to crack down on folks who think it's acceptable to throw a banana at a darker-skinned footballer.

Years ago, when he contributed to "The Italian Job", the book I wrote with Gianluca Vialli, Jose Mourinho explained how he had to talk differently to different players. "If John Terry makes a mistake, I can get in his face and insult him and shout at him and he'll be spurred on to react better," he said. "But if William Gallas makes a mistake I can't do it. If I shout at him, I lose him. So I have to cuddle him and be supportive."

You wonder if Eden Hazard is closer to the Terry end of the spectrum given the public battering he received at the hands of Mourinho on Friday. Hazard, following elimination from the Champions League against Atletico Madrid last Wednesday, said that Chelsea weren't a footballing side, but rather were built to play on the counter. And that he was often asked to do it all by himself, and it "wasn't easy".

"It's normal because [Hazard] is not the kind of player to sacrifice himself 100% for the team and his mates," Mourinho said. "I'm not happy ... I've tried to improve him."

Over the years, a Mourinho hallmark has been to defend his players at all costs, except for the ones he was ready to axe (Exhibit A: Mata, Juan). Does Hazard now fall in the latter category?

If he does, you've got to wonder why. He's 23 years old and newly- crowned PFA Young Player of the Year. He has more goals and assists than any other Chelsea player. And he has played more minutes than anyone except for Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic and Terry. He may not have tracked back sufficiently against Atletico, but he can't be accused of not pulling his weight this season.

Most likely, Mourinho felt that by calling Hazard out in public, he could push the right buttons to get him to contribute in the way the Chelsea boss wants. By the same token, though, a manager's job, surely, has to be to get the best out of his squad. Particularly key players.

Mourinho got his way with Mata, fine. But is he really suggesting Hazard is in the Mata mould? Is the implication really that there is no room for one of the best young attacking midfielders in the world?

Nine clubs will face some kind of sanction over Financial Fair Play. They have until Thursday to agree a "settlement" with UEFA's Club Financial Control Body: basically, agree a punishment in lieu of going further, a bit like a prosecutor offering a deal to defendants in order to avoid court. There's a strong incentive for clubs to settle, because going to the next stage (the Adjudicatory Panel) or the one after that (the Court of Arbitration for Sport) is fraught with peril. Uefa haven't issued any sentencing guidelines and there is no jurisprudence. Which means offending clubs could well have the book thrown at them if they don't accept the settlements.

No official word on which clubs are at this settlement stage, but there has been plenty of speculation that Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Zenit St Petersburg could be among them.

FFP is Michel Platini's baby and his credibility rides on it. He needs to hand out meaningful punishments while, at the same time, doing it in a way that's perceived to be fair and doesn't alienate hefty investors in the game like the Qataris or Emiratis. Get it wrong and any ambition he might have for higher office (Fifa perhaps?) goes with it.

It's unlikely anybody will be excluded this time around if only because no club would settle for what is effectively football's death penalty. The most likely outcomes for the worst offenders are heavy financial punishments (we're talking in the tens of millions of Euros, maybe up to a hundred million) coupled with limitation on Champions' League squads (fewer slots, fewer new registrations, etc). Platini doesn't want a situation where a wealthy owner simply writes a big cheque and then does as he pleases.

Harsh? UEFA will tell you the rules have been clear for four years now. And that they've been in regular contact with clubs telling them how and why they were in danger of being in breach. If somebody gets the book thrown at them this week, it will likely be because they were trying to call Platini's bluff.

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