Serie A: racism, an endemic problem that Italian football struggles to control

“Shame over and over again. If this happens in Florence, the cradle of Italian culture, it means that there is very little hope of changing the minds of people who are really small”, laments the Italian sports daily la Gazzetta dello Sport, Monday October 4. Sunday, three black players from Naples were again victims of racist insults during their meeting against Fiorentina. A few weeks earlier, the French from AC Milan, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Mike Maignan had also been targeted by this kind of abuse, very frequent in Italian stadiums and relatively little repressed.

In 2019 already, the racist insults uttered towards several players, including Blaise Matuidi and Mario Balottelli, had tarnished the image of transalpine football. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) then decided on a new rule: at the first report of racist cries, the players must gather in the center of the field while the announcer warns and reasons the supporters, then at the second report, the match is suspended and the players return to the locker rooms.

Depending on the number of supporters involved and the severity of the chants, clubs also risk a closed-door match in the event of a repeat offense. But the racist “supporters” have found the solution: they act before the match, as towards Mike Maignan during the warm-up, or after the meeting, as during Fiorentina-Naples.

If Italian clubs regularly try to reason with their supporters with anti-racism campaigns, players are also increasingly speaking out to denounce the insults to which they are victims. After being the target of insults at the Allianz Stadium against Juventus, Mike Maignan spoke on Instagram: “As long as we treat these events as isolated incidents and do not take global action, history is bound to repeat itself over and over and over again”.

The French goalkeeper wondered: “What are we doing to combat racism in football stadiums? Do we really believe it’s effective? […] In the instances, do the people who decide know what it feels like to hear insults and cries relegating us to the rank of animals? “.

After Napoli’s meeting against Fiorentina on Sunday, Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen also spoke. “‘Fuck monkey’, that’s what I was called. These people have nothing to do with sport. They have to be identified and kept away from the stadiums: forever.”, asked the Senegalese international. “Talk to your children, to your parents, make them understand how odious it is to hate someone because of their skin color”, claimed the former Lille.

For Paolo Tomaselli, Italian journalist at Corriere Della Sera, racism stems from an education problem: “Italy is a recent country of immigration and there is still a lot, a lot, a lot to do in favor of integration and anti-racism policies”.

Last season and its closed-door matches did not make racist slurs from Italian stadiums disappear: Perhaps after the pandemic, some clubs focused on health and economic issues, forgetting the problem of racism in stadiums “, tries to explain Paolo Tomaselli. According to him, some teams with a sulphurous reputation, such as Hellas Verona, Lazio or Cagliari, have all the same made “a lot of efforts” in recent years to change things.

Lately, Juventus have helped to quickly identify the perpetrator of the insults against Mike Maignan, who is to be prosecuted for “inciting racial hatred”. He faces a fine and a stadium ban. Regarding the insults uttered against Neapolitan players on Sunday, the federation’s prosecution announced the opening of an investigation.

Fiorentina apologized to insulted Neapolitan players and denounced “shameful and intolerable songs”. In a press release, the Florentine club claims to have already putavailable to the police all the video images and all the tools in their possession so that the culprits of these unspeakable chants are identified […] It will then be up to Fiorentina itself to deny them access to the stadium “.

The Florence club regrets on the other hand that Atalanta did not take the same measures when its player, Duncan, was the target of racist cries on the lawn of Bergamo. “There are different sensitivities depending on the club and some fight more than others against racism”, concludes Paolo Tomaselli.

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