With the ‘black lives matter’ movement continually fighting for human equality, we revisit one of our earlier features which endeavours to investigate racism within the Italian Serie A, which has seen the likes of Internationally recognised strikers Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku subjected to disgusting racial abuse in the past, proving nobody is exempt and equality is still squirming from a tight global grasp.
The Italian Serie A has always been renowned as one of the world’s greatest footballing leagues, sumptuous to the taste buds of any football fan with fine players, coaches and stadiums, Italian football has become more powerful than ever of late, now ranking 8th among all professional sports leagues in revenue (2,267 million euros).
So, when accompanied by the incredible sun, food and quality lifestyle beautiful Italy offers, what’s not to like for a professional footballer? Mario Balotelli, an Italian citizen himself has since, alike many other players, been the subject of racist abuse on multiple occasions with various Serie A clubs.
In February 2013 Balotelli, at the time a striker for AC Milan, was specifically subjected to racist abuse mostly in the form of monkey chanting and gestures from fans of city rivals Inter Milan, who at one point even hurled inflatable bananas onto the pitch. After failures from matchday officials to properly deal with the incident, Balotelli admitted to feeling alone in his battle against racist abuse, something he opened up about later that year to journalist Pedro Pinto (CNN).
“After what happened I felt alone, and if it happens again, I will leave the pitch. It’s stupid.
“To the fans, support your team and come and watch the games, I understand they will insult players, but do not say racist things”.
When asked if he felt “the officials and sporting authorities were doing enough” to protect players from this kind of abuse, Balotelli raised his eyebrows before shaking his head, muttering “I do not want to say anything that will get me in trouble”, a clear indication that there was, and still is no transparency and communication with players from the Serie A and other Italian footballing bodies.
This is further supported by the latest instance of racist behaviour from Italian fans, this time at the hands of Cagliari supporters, who once more pummelled racist chants and gestures at new Inter Milan signing Romelu Lukaku, who joined from Manchester United in August 2019 for a fee of £73 million.
What followed these events however provides the biggest shock, as Inter Milan fans wrote an open letter addressed to Lukaku, portraying the message “monkey chants aren’t racist in Italy”. The letter goes on: “You have to understand that Italy is not like other North European countries where racism is a real problem”. A sentence which sums up entirely the viewpoint of fans themselves, who support a team in perhaps the most racially damaged league of all.
Since receiving the letter, Lukaku has said he believes “football is going backwards” in terms of its fight against racism, something supported by England’s Jadon Sancho, who stated: “racism is killing football” and by former Chelsea striker Demba Ba, who “urges black players to escape Italy’s Serie A”.
Since the incident, no comment has been made by Serie A, who seem completely unaware that racism is a major issue, and completely unmotivated to try and fix it. This begs the question, how dire does the situation have to get before governing bodies take action?