2017 looks to be the year where the soccer establishment forgot about saying no to racism. Following the racially-charged Everton Luiz incident in Serbia, his countryman and former Seleção star Felipe Melo felt the sting of racism during a Copa Libertadores match on Wednesday. The current Palmeiras midfielder claims that he was racially abused by Peñarol winger Gaston Rodriguez, stating that the Uruguayan called him a “macaco” (or “monkey”) during the match.
Afterwards, however, Melo seems to get the last laugh while speaking with Brazilian outlet SporTV, saying that “Yes, I am a black man and proudly so. I think he had some problem, his wife must have cheated on him with a big black man, or something like that.”
While that clap-back came in the heat of the moment, Melo acknowledged later on that Rodriguez made his way to the Palmeiras locker room in order to apologize for his remarks. “‘It’s a game thing, we have to forgive everything,” said Melo. “It’s forgivable, the important thing is to recognize the mistake of heart.”
Melo did go on to say that the younger, wilder version of himself would have pursued judicial action against Rodriguez, but he’s more mature now and won’t. As of now, there has been no announced disciplanary action for Rodriguez, and, given his immediate apology and Melo’s acceptance of it, it appears that this incident will be left behind, despite it being emblematic of racial tensions in South America, especially when Brazil is involved.
After all, this isn’t the first time a Uruguayan soccer player has called a Brazilian a “macaco”: during the 2015 South America Under-20 Championship, Brazilian coach Alexandre Gallo accused Uruguayan Facundo Castro of calling Marcos Guilherme the same thing.