Lilian Thuram outlined the reasons football cannot shake off its racism problem, but “Italy is just as sexist, homophobic and racist as any other country.”
The latest incident at the Sardegna Arena saw Cagliari fans make racist monkey noises at Inter striker Lukaku when he took the winning penalty.
Incredibly, a group of Inter ultras released a statement defending the Cagliari fans, insisting they were simply “trying to help their team” by putting off the opposition player by any means necessary.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, considering these same Inter ultras were penalised last year for racist chants against Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and used the same defence.
“The fans won’t learn because all that happens is a lot of talk and no action,” former Parma and Juventus defender Thuram told the Corriere dello Sport.
“If nothing gets done, you give them the right to continue behaving in a certain way. Evidently, those in charge do not consider racist abuse to be that serious a matter.
“There are so many people who talk, who underline the need to change and then don’t do anything. In my eyes, those who do nothing are on the same level as those who make the racist noises. Some might get angry with my words, but that’s how I see it.
“In France, for example, the referees have been interrupting games in case of homophobia in the stands. Sending the two teams off the field is a way of educating people. I don’t remember such a statement happening in Italy.
“When you talk about racism in Italian football, you have to understand this isn’t about the sport. There is racism in Italian, French, European and in general ‘white’ culture. Some whites have decided they are superior to blacks and can therefore do anything to them. Unfortunately, it has been going for centuries and it’s not easy to change such an ingrained culture.”
The debate continues to rage in Italy every time on what should be done, how to deal with racist abuse from fans, and Thuram is fed up of the empty gestures.
“How many years have we seen that type of reaction? At the end of the day everyone says it’s serious, but nobody finds a solution. That means there is extraordinary hypocrisy and nobody wants to resolve the problem.
“This happened in England when Paul Pogba was offended on social networks. A Coach made a hypocritical comment saying we should boycott social media because certain behaviour was intolerable, but this same manager in the past said games should not be suspended if there are racist chants.
“Everyone says ‘We should do something’ and then don’t really do anything. That way, the racists think they’re right. Clubs must feel responsible for what happens within a closed environment like a football stadium. And when I say ‘responsible’, that does not mean ‘culpable’ – clubs must say, these people are in our home, so what can we do? If nobody feels responsible, nothing gets done.
“There are rules allowing them to stop games if there is racist behaviour, but they pretend not to hear it.”
However, having experienced football at various levels, Thuram stands against those urging black players to boycott Serie A.
“Italy is just as sexist, homophobic and racist as any other country. Anyone who says there is more racism in Italy compared to France or other nations is plain wrong. I love Italy, I was happy there, I still have friends there and am always glad to be back in the country.
“When you are black, you’ve received a racist insult at least once in your lifetime. It’s not just about football and it is hypocritical to pretend this is purely a football fan issue.
“It’s good that black players stand up for Lukaku and others, but the black players aren’t the ones with the problem. We need white people who find a solution to their problem. If they consider themselves more important and express that with monkey noises, it means they have an inferiority complex.
“Black people would not treat white people like that for any reason. History says so.”