It has been a tough week. Not just for FC Barcelona, but for all who love football. The world lost itself a young, talented coach in Tito Vilanova on Friday to throat cancer, followed by a racist remark made to full back Dani Alves at the weekend against Villarreal. Yesterday was the funeral of Vilanova at Barcelona cathedral, attended by the current Barcelona squad, past Barcelona presidents and representatives of other clubs including Espanyol and Real Madrid.
Vilanova’s death sent shockwaves through my body. He was a man who I admired as a coach. He impressed me with his tactical decisions- helping Barcelona win La Liga last season with a record tally of 100 points. Tito wasn’t recognised as well as a player as he spent most of his career in Spain’s second division but he became well known as Assistant Manager to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
Tito took over from Guardiola in 2012 and in his single season at the Nou Camp he took the team to the league title and the semi finals of the Champions League. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2011 and has fought a tough battle for the past 3 years. Tito had to take time out managing Barca as he flew to the USA for treatment for the cancer. Tito resigned as Barcelona coach last summer and has spent the final few months of his life with his family in Barcelona.
Tito leaves behind his wife and two children including his son Adria, who currently plays for the Barcelona academy.
The players reacted to the death of their friend and former coach with a 3-2 win at Villarreal- a victory that was dedicated to Vilanova. However the victory was spoiled by an idiot in the Villarreal stands.
Dani Alves went over to take a corner, but as he prepared a fan threw a banana at him because of his colour. It was one of the most disgraceful things I have seen watching football. For a game trying to push racism out of the game, this was a sign that in Spain and other countries, this is going to be a long time before that objective is to happen.
Alves’ response however was one of true admiration for any footballer who suffers racial abuse. Alves calmly picked up the banana, peeled it, and ate a bit before giving the rest to a ball boy and continuing the game. That takes guts. Personally, I don’t think I would have continued playing. The reaction from football fans has been phenomenal for the Brazilian. Players such as Sergio Aguero have shown their admiration for Dani by posting a picture of him eating a banana on his twitter page.
Barcelona have had to suffer with both racism and mourn for a former coach. This isn’t easy to do and the football club has acted superbly with the incidents that have occurred. I hope happier times come to the Catalan side soon.
RIP Tito Vilanova 1969-2014