Minister for Integration Cecile Kyenge spoke out on racism in Italy and its stadiums. “People felt threatened by Mario Balotelli.”
Congolese-born surgeon Kyenge is the first black minister in the Italian Government and was also subjected to racist slurs, most recently this week when someone threw bananas at the stage during a political rally.
She reacted with great dignity and class, suggesting “that was a waste of perfectly good food during an economic crisis.”
With another racist incident seeing Kevin Constant storm off during Milan’s Trofeo TIM match with Sassuolo, Kyenge was interviewed by La Gazzetta dello Sport on how to fight this growing phenomenon.
“If you are a good administrator or political leader, then you have to be able to recognise this problem, understand the causes and find the right way to communicate and react,” she explained.
“Racism is helped by the economic crisis, by fear, insecurity and an idea of diversity that is never presented as enriching the culture.
“After all, what’s happening to me also happened to Balotelli. While he was an Italian player and that’s it, especially when playing abroad, he was in some way accepted. Then he represented Italy, playing for the Nazionale, scoring and winning. At that point, some people felt threatened.
“It’s a little bit like what happened when I was made Minister. It all comes down to fear of diversity, which is why we must change our way of communicating what diversity really is.”
Balotelli and Angelo Ogbonna are currently the only black players in the Italy squad, as both were born in Italy from African parents.
As Balotelli was not officially adopted by his Italian foster family, he had to wait until he turned 18 to gain Italian citizenship. One of Kyenge’s initiatives is aimed at making it simpler for those born in Italy from foreign parents to become citizens.
“A multi-ethnic Nazionale is inevitable, natural and unstoppable,” continued Kyenge.
“Sport is waking up to the problem of racism and we must multiply our initiatives. From Tuesday we start a three-year plan to fight racial discrimination. Will I go to Brazil for the World Cup? I hope so.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition  - £11,000 to be won monthly!