Racism, the biggest lasting stain on the beautiful game, seems to have found a home in Italy’s premier football division. Almost every other article one reads about Serie A is about racism and for good reason. Racism needs to be kicked out of, not just football, but our whole lives. Racism does not belong anywhere, never mind in football where most clubs have numerous players of numerous different ethnicities, who are cherished by the fans of the respective clubs. On the national level as well, we have seen people of non-white ethnicity, not just breaking through the England national team, but star in it, such as the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Rio Ferdinand, etc. England, while still having to deal with racist incidents, appears to have a much better control of the problem than Italy, who most people see as having a league of rampant racism. On a recent trip to Napoli, friends of mine expressed fears of racial targeting when discussing attending one of their football matches. The real question is why were they more scared to go to a football match in Italy than in England, and how Serie A can end this fear?
The answer to the first part lies with the Serie A governing body aka the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A. Unfortunately, both England and Italy have recently experienced several incidents of racism. In Manchester United’s victory over local rivals Manchester City of last December, United midfielder Fred was the target of racial abuse, while in Italy Moise Kean was also the victim of targeted racial abuse when his side defeated Cagliari at the beginning of April 2019. These only represent examples of racism that could be found in both top football league. The difference is that in England punishment is often swift and criticism is unilateral. There are no ‘ifs, buts and maybes’. When a Manchester City fan made monkey noises at Fred, City responded saying that anybody found guilty of racism will immediately be banned from the club, with the FA sending a similar message. It is difficult to prevent fans from hurling racial abuse, but this clear message of no to racism sends a message that racism will be punished in England. However, in Italy Moise Kean was partly blamed for the racial abuse he received. His own team-mate, Bonucci claimed that ‘the blame is fifty-fifty’ between Kean and the Cagliari fans, due to the formers celebrating after scoring a goal. Even the director of Sky Sports Italy, Federico Ferri, made the claim that Kean should not have celebrated like that.
That is the difference between Italy and England. The response has to be all out damning of any racist comments, no matter why they occurred or even if it came from your own fans. The Serie A needs to do the same, if it wants to make fans feel safer and properly try to reduce the occurrence of racial abuse.
From my personal experience, which I alluded to earlier, I know that I only experienced one football match in Italy, played in the home of a team whose best and most cherished player, Kalidou Koulibaly, is of African origins. However, it was a welcoming environment for me and my friends in an otherwise foreign land. Think of how often you hear about a racist incident in a match and compare that with the fact that there are 380 games of football in the Serie A per season. You garner the impression that you have almost as much reason to fear the Serie A as you do the Premier League.