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SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Racist fans have jeered, spat and cursed at Brazilian soccer stars in Europe -- but, despite being shocked, players are still eager to move to European clubs offering lucrative deals.

Racism erupted this year in Spain, where World Cup stars Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos play for Real Madrid. In Sao Paulo, an Argentine player was arrested and accused of insulting Brazilian striker Grafite in a Copa Libertadores match.

But racism is nothing new in Brazil. Statistics show that dark-skinned Brazilians are poorer than whites, and prejudice is often disguised but widespread.

For young players from poor families, the lure of wealth and stardom can be stronger than the threat of discrimination.

"Of course I think about it (racism). I've heard some absurd stories about these acts and they worry me a lot,'' Santos striker Robinho said. "But that's not going to keep me from going to play in Europe one day.''

Robinho, who is black, is touted as one of the best players to come out of Brazil in recent years. His move to Europe seems imminent with media reports saying he is bound for Real Madrid, where most of the racist insults against Brazilians have occurred.

Last month, fans spat at Ronaldo and yelled racist remarks as he left the field during a Spanish league match. Days earlier, Deportivo La Coruna fans made monkey noises at Roberto Carlos, who also is of mixed race.

"Authorities need to do something about this. Racism has no place in soccer,'' said Robinho.

Like many Brazilian players, he wears a black-and-white wristband -- part of a worldwide anti-racism campaign led by French star Thierry Henry.

New, tougher measures were introduced to combat abuse. Referees are allowed to stop games because of racial offenses and clubs can be fined.

But the abuse has continued -- and not only in Spain.

This month, Quilmes defender Leandro Desabato of Argentina was led off the field by police and arrested for alleged racial insults against Sao Paulo striker Grafite at Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo.

It wasn't the first time that players complained of racism by Argentines, but some Brazilians are still willing to play in Argentina despite that.

"You know racism exists,'' Brazilian defender Baiano, who plays for Argentina's Boca Juniors, told Radio Jovem Pan recently. "I never felt anything personally, so I wouldn't go back to Brazil just because of that.''

Racism has been more overt in Europe, where most of Brazil's top stars play.

"I had one of the worst experiences of my life while playing in Europe,'' said defender Junior, formerly of Italy's Parma. "It wasn't fun to watch fans imitating a monkey every time I went to the sidelines to make a throw in or to take a corner kick.''

But Parma paid him a lot -- and the money was too good to pass up.

"There was nothing I could do,'' said Junior, a member of Brazil's 2002 World Cup champion team. "There was no way I was going to give up the kind of money I was making there because of that. I just had to deal with it.''

Junior returned to Brazil last year to play for three-time national champion Sao Paulo, following a lackluster season with the Italian team. He said his return had nothing to do with the racist insults.

Bayern Leverkusen defender Juan, a starter on Brazil's national team, was the target of racist insults while playing against Real Madrid in Spain last year. He said the problem goes deeper than soccer.

"A lot of times soccer is a reflection of what happens off the field, where I think the problems are much worse,'' Juan told Jovem Pan. "The attention these recent cases are getting in the media may help out a lot.''
 
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