Racism in the Italian GameBy: Martha | January 14th, 2008
[I'll say right up front that my thoughts on this are really unfocused, but I wanted to bring it up because I'm curious as to what you guys think about a possible solution, particularly those of you who are in Italy, or have followed the Italian game for a decade or two.]
It’s a sad truth that racism against African players is so long-standing in Italy that it’s hardly even discussed anymore, at least not in the English and Italian sources I read. It’s not gone, but it seems to be accepted as just a tragic fact of life now, worth reporting only when someone at a victim club makes issue of it in the press, as the president of Serie C1 side Pro Sesto did yesterday:
It happened before, in the away game when every time one of our black players touched the ball they started to boo … On Saturday it happened at our ground when one of our players was injured and they hurled abuse at him. Verona should be fined repeatedly for the attitude of their fans. It is incredible to believe that people could chant ‘die’ at a player on the floor.
And, again, these aren’t isolated incidents. I remember reading (possibly in John Foot’s Calcio) about how Udinese didn’t buy their first black player until years after the taboo has been broken — I want to say it wasn’t until the mid-to-late 1980s, at the earliest — because their supporters were so abusive of opposing players of African descent that they were afraid of the response. And this is to the team’s own players. Obviously Udine got over it and now have a great recording of finding and nurturing African talent, but the abuse continues to be a factor all over Italy, whether it’s from pockets of support or bigger, more organized groups.
The racism extends to Asians, too, as Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura discussed last week, and to certain European populations, as Adrian Mutu has found out repeatedly this season, most recently at Parma yesterday. (Not surprisingly, the only on-pitch support Mutu got was from Parma’s Senegalese defender Ferdinand Coly, who described the behavior of his team’s supporters as “disgusting.”)
So, why is this allowed to continue? I know it’s a problem in a lot of European leagues, but I’m talking about Italy here — why hasn’t the racism been tackled by the FIGC? Why hasn’t there been an EPL-style anti-racism campaign? Or has there been one that didn’t work? When Marco Zoro was so badly abused by Inter traveling support that he tried to stop the match three years ago, the response was wide condemnation of the behavior of the fans, and a delayed start for the next week’s matches as a protest against racism, but then what? Surely massive fines against clubs and the chucking out of guilty supporters would be a start — is the problem, like a lot of the other ones in the Italian game, so big that it’s impossible to imagine fixing it, and so it’s just ignored?