SAO PAULO - Brazil legend Pele said Friday that outrage at the throwing of a banana toward compatriot and Barcelona defender Dani Alves was a social media storm in a tea cup.
Alves ate the fruit thrown on the pitch near him during a match at Villarreal and the host club banned the culprit who lobbed it for life, while the twittersphere buzzed with acclaim for the player's cool reaction.
But for Pele, speaking at an agricultural forum in the southeastern town of Riberao Preto, the incident has been blown out of proportion.
"It's not just in football where there's racism. It's been around in all sectors of society for a long time," Pele said.
"Such banality. A guy threw a banana. It's a storm in a teacup." Barcelona and Brazil star Neymar was one of those who praised Alves after launching an anti-racist campaign on social media with the hashtag #somostodosmacacos (we are all monkeys).
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff likewise hailed Alves's reaction.
But Pele insisted: "I do not agree there is a wave of racism.
"In my day, people threw guanabana fruit and mangoes" at players, he added.