Having been appalled by his first experience of racism in only his second game since signing for Inter Milan this summer, Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku felt rightly, the need to speak out against those that so disgustingly chanted at him during the Cagliari match at the weekend.
These chants have become all too familiar at Italian football grounds (especially at Cagliari) over the years with players like Mario Balotelli and Moise Kean also recently suffering similar due to nothing more than the colour of their skin, it really is that simple in the minds of these idiots.
Thankfully we in England are a little more liberal these days, although the twitter trolls recently that have backlashed against the penalty misses of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford may suggest otherwise, we have always lead from the front as a country when it comes to identifying equality, diversity and basic human rights and perhaps now in a time more than ever is one where we should again perhaps demand to lead the way in this fight.
A recent open letter to Lukaku from the Inter fans has suggested that ‘this is not racism’ that instead these noises are made to put opposition players off, to suggest that in normal terms (ie outside of football) this kind of thing does not happen in Italy. The point is ‘why’ should it happen in football at all?
If Football is to continue to aim its game at global audiences and if FIFA are to continue to take the game to countries like Qatar where the World Cup in 2022 is being played then football needs to act from the top to have a universal policy in place to stop, pick out, suspend and fine those that don’t adhere to it.
After all in a shrinking world gone are the days where each country can portray it’s own religious ‘opinion’ or ‘rule’ on others despite whether they believe it is right or wrong. FIFA as the leading player in all the world sports governing bodies can make huge strides by outlawing this kind of unacceptable behaviour so that those within it’s structure will suffer if those within it continue to ignore its policies.
FIFA (along with the Olympics and sport in general) needs a universal code on racism (and homophobia) of all kinds and FIFA needs to have the power to fine clubs who’s fans or staff go against the will of their ethos. FIFA needs to step up it’s policies and threaten lifetime bans for fans and expulsion from competitions for clubs. Only then will this type of behaviour be taken more seriously.
As for Italy. I love Italian football but I see a badly marketed dying franchise in Serie A with it’s crumbling stadiums and hostile but often sparse crowds. Nobody in Italy even wants to go to games these days because largely of the hooligan culture that goes with football. In Italy football is not a family day out, it has a tribe verses tribe mentality and the match is often a side show type of distraction that just goes along with hooligans wanting to be hooligans at football, just like how it was back in England during the 1980’s and that to me is the saddest thought of all, how football in Italy has simply not moved on from the dark ages and what was our own worse times over 30 years ago.
Maybe the Italian culture itself needs to step up and acknowledge that this is not right. I was (by chance) at a Pride event in Palermo recently, a lot of happy youngsters of all races wearing all the colours of the rainbow and not a bit of trouble. Italians happy to let them do their thing. Maybe more events like this will help? After all Italians are not bad people, just badly educated to suggest that the kind of behaviour which happened to Lukaku in Cagliari is OK?
I hope that education on this in Italy improves, I hope that this improves and so with it does the enjoyment to go see a football match. Maybe the organisers of Serie A need to look at the models in England, Germany and Spain, to open out to a global audience, to attract more people from the wider world to attend its games? To market clubs and stadiums as modern welcoming places, to have compulsory catering and toilet facilities in some of these terribly bland, basic and scary concrete venues. To have club stores and friendly stewards, betting kiosks and attractive people willing to help when you ask them where you should sit?
Maybe we need the likes of Romelu Lukaku and others to step up and speak out more? Maybe it will get worse before something is done about it? But what we really need as the end goal is to rid these people and their dated personal views from football matches and instead attract people that don’t get their kicks out of offending people, but instead want to watch their favourite team play, people that enjoy top sport played at the top level, to attract people that have a love for football and people that won’t be scared or afraid to take their kids along to these games.
Children remember are the future and the game has to be now aimed at families with children of all ages, colours, skins and religions to be able to attend matches and we must do what we can to make it even more attractive to them than it currently is, because no matter who you support or what you believe, these children deserve to grow up with equality and respect, because if you show them respect they’ll equally respect you and at the forefront of all sport whether you participate, coach or watch, should always be the word respect.