Monday November 4 2019
Many Italians don't understand racism

Football fans are a mere microcosm of society and what Mario Balotelli faced in Verona reflected a larger issue, writes Susy Campanale.

Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse at the Stadio Bentegodi. This, somehow, is still up for debate in Italy. It is not about Italian football at this point, nor is it helpful to note all the recent incidents of racism in the Premier League, Ligue 1 and most blatantly in Bulgaria.

Calling for entire nations to be thrown out of various competitions is also not going to achieve anything, other than pinning a badge of wokeness on your lapel. It’s not going to happen, we all know that, because it’d be impractical and football is now such a business-oriented sport that nobody will put billions at risk thanks to a few idiots.

The problem I see when discussing this is a more fundamental concern: different nations and people within those countries have very different ideas of what constitutes racism.

I am proud of my Italian heritage, always will be, but I also have no shame in admitting it is a country decades behind Britain and even most of Europe in terms of race relations. Blackface is still shown on primetime television, the most popular quiz show has a regular skit where the host puts on a Chinese hat, pulls his eyes to make them ‘slitty’ and replaces all the Rs in his words with an L. This is a nation where Matteo Salvini and the Lega Nord are realistically now the most popular political party, where leaving a hundred refugees floating on the sea for weeks and weeks rather than letting them board is considered a wise policy decision.

How far behind are Italy? Last week, Parliament voted to institute a new commission to examine and fight hate speech, anti-Semitism and racism. The right-wing parties abstained and then refused to stand for the woman who proposed the commission, Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, claiming the idea of clamping down on hate speech was “Orwellian” and “Soviet.”

Last month, Juan Jesus received offensive Instagram messages from a Roma supporter – his own club – and that man gave an interview with a major newspaper assuring he did call the Brazilian an ape and say he ought to be in a zoo, but that he was “certainly not racist.” We live in a world where people think they can say racist things and somehow not actually be racist. And they genuinely believe that.

Lazio President Claudio Lotito proudly declared during a speech about battling racism that their supporters weren’t just targeting black players, they also booed “those with normal skin.” And he didn’t see an issue with that wording at all.  

Hellas Verona coach Ivan Juric and President Maurizio Setti argued passionately that their fans were being dragged through the mud because there was no racist chanting towards Balotelli. Helpfully, a Verona fan himself posted a video of the incident just before Balotelli kicked the ball into that very section of the stands, which he assured was proof that there was no racist abuse. The fact the clip contained clearly audible ‘monkey noises’ apparently slipped him by. “Do you hear racist abuse towards Balotelli? Or did the genius just want attention?” It is what the Twitterverse would call a perfect self-own.

Here lies the other problem we are all facing, and I mean everyone all over the world, so get off your high horses about Italy at this point: social media has changed the way people relate to each other. Mob mentalities are created, the false bravery afforded by anonymity, the idea all at once that celebrities have to see our messages – they appear in a timeline, don’t even have to click on your account or single you out – and are at our disposal because we pay to see their films/football matches/gigs, etc.

These are human beings. They owe you nothing other than a performance during the precise period you paid to partake in. You are not owed a selfie when they are going about their daily business. You are not owed a tweet, especially when asked with utter rudeness. And no, the celebrities are not ‘full of themselves’ or ‘forgetting who got you there’ if they happen to take affront to a complete stranger insulting them out of the blue.

Does social media breed racism? Perhaps. It certainly is taking away the thin veil of shame that many people had about expressing those views in public. Just look at the political discourse in Britain and America, those most ‘woke’ of nations who feel smug about the racism of other backwards countries and prefer to ignore the same scourge they face at home. Look at their media coverage of issues like immigration and national identity. The racism is always there, it’s just some nations and individuals accept the need to be politely ashamed of expressing it in public.

Maybe that’s the reason racist abuse is so rife in Italian football – many people in the stands and the media genuinely don’t understand calling someone an animal, something less than a human being, is racist rather than just banter or any other insult. We can’t blame football clubs for that. It’s all on society.

Have your say...
Love serie A, but I do agree. Society, especially in the first world has a problem of looking down upon the situations in other countries, when they created most of these situations in the first place. Europe colonized most of the known world, created poverty and slavery, and still has the audacity to wonder why the situation is so critical? Why the people get on boats? Come on, man up to the mistakes of your generations past.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 6:49pm
I don't have to put myself in anyones shoes. This subject has nothing to do with Football. I have no interest in why these people are on a boat at sea and with all due respect I am also not that interested.
I don't see why Europe has to come up with a solution at all, you say they know the 'risks' I say they know the system. No boats are let in now and numbers have dropped. Once they know the ports are closed the 'risks' will be a much bigger reality for them and they will stay put.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 5:49pm
Sorry @Phil, only a PATHETIC LOSER would abuse dark-skinned professional footballers with monkey chants. (Professional footballers, BTW, whose talent generates money, sponsorships, jobs and entertainment for Italians & other Europeans).

Lukaku is from Belgium; Juan Jesus is from freakin' Brazil --it has nothing to do with recent migrants and everything to do with the wallowing of certain Italian male LOSERS.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 5:46pm
Some Italians (overwhelmingly males) are so desperate for self-worth they'll resort to racial, etc abuse of players just to win a FOOTBALL MATCH. Then, to conceal the shame of being such pathetic losers, they pretend the racist behavior never occurred or is just normal/misunderstood fan enthusiasm. Italy needs more fans like Juventini who applauded CR9's bicycle kick and Interisti who applauded Karamoh's recent goal against them --and lifetime bans for the racist losers!
on the 5th November, 2019 at 5:33pm
Much is lost in online discourse, esp. with character limits. I don't wish to mis-represent you.
Without assuming you are anti-immigrant, talking points like "refugee vs ec. migrant", "invite them into your own home", "legality" and "secure borders" are often the rhetoric of people who are.
It's understandable Italians are angry, but it needs to be directed upwards, not down at the vulnerable.
Migrants aren't going away. Forceful resistance isn't humane or logical.
"Legal" =/= ethical.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 4:59pm

Maybe I've been misinterpreting your numerous comments on the matter, but haven't you repeatedly targeted the people of Napoli with abuse? City smells of garbage, petty thieves, lazy, etc...

Correct me if I'm wrong.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 4:43pm
Pick up a history book. Don't burn it. Read it.
The 3rd world is not being thrust upon you. Refugees are the logical consequences of centuries of European imperialist policies in Africa.
NATO(Italy) toppled Libya's government in 2011.
And now they have the nerve to send refugees from the war-zone...
Africa is a rich continent; it's "3rd world" because the 1st world extracts it's resources and meddles in it's politics.
You are not the victim here.
Direct your anger upwards, not downwards.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 4:33pm
@Phil, Europeans thrust themselves on far-away continents and peoples for hundreds of years intending to rip them off and steal their land, unlike today's refugees who are simply fleeing war and economic misery, 95% who have no intention of ripping anyone off! Just ask Native Americans, the Red Man, and they will tell who the "clandestini" are. November 28 is USA "Thanksgiving Day" dedicated to the Indians who saved the first Europeans from starving to death, but they were stabbed in the back!
on the 5th November, 2019 at 3:35pm
@Phil, Europeans thrust themselves on far-away continents and peoples for hundreds of years intending to rip them off and steal their land, unlike today's refugees who are simply fleeing war and economic misery, 95% who have no intention of ripping anyone off! Just ask Native Americans, the Red Man, and they will tell who the "clandestini" are. November 28 is USA "Thanksgiving Day" dedicated to the Indians who saved the first Europeans from starving to death, but you stabbed them in the back!
on the 5th November, 2019 at 2:52pm
Italians & countless other Europeans have had the 3rd world thrust on them without there consent with Europe expected to be the worlds welfare check...Which is only making Europe much worse & you wonder why theres a rise in such sentiment.

If you cared about 'Refugees'you wouldnt prop up & encourage human traffickers or for them to risk there lives, you would tell said 'rufugees' to stay & improve there home nations.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 1:08pm
Corrupted referees,
FIGC favoring the big clubs,
Racism in abundance,
Italian football how do you think it is going?

And if you wonder why you almost always suck in Europe, look at the numbers. Look at the sponsor money and look at the future. Do you think big international brands want to be associated with THAT?

Change or become like he French firs division, virtually unknown to the outside world.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 12:51pm
@Dennis, it seems that whatever I say gets twisted & then pivoted into a different subject. Susi brought up the topic of 'refugees', which has become blanket a term that is being abused & used to circumvent standard migration policies & allow migrants to jump the queue ahead of other migrants that are looking to enter their chosen country legally. It wasn't left-field at all. What's especially sad, is that genuine refugees are being pushed back because of the actions of other migrants.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 12:33pm
@PrimoCalcio, first of all, thank you for your civil reply. If you think that I'm anti refugee/immigrant, then you have misread what I intended to convey. I have no problem with either. It's about being sensible & not placing your existing population (& ALL its people) at risk: case in point Germany circa 2015.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 12:17pm
@Dennis, again, that word racist. Somehow, by saying that I want a secure border & sensible immigration policy, this has lead to me being: racist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, an idiot that makes/condones monkey chants, & someone that would let people drown. That's some serious mental gymnastics.
West Asia is a region, not a country. When I next go to London, I will give you a heads-up..... for a drink & civil chat, a place where 500 character limits won't interrupt the flow of conversation.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 11:55am
So many comments solely due to Balotelli. A similar article on Moise Kean was like a wasteland. Fact of the matter is that Serie A has a race problem, those denying that should get educated. Balotelli (he was similarly abused by Chievo fans at Inter in 2008/09 and scored a stunner response), Matuidi, Kean, Koulibaly, Muntari, KP Boateng... Lilian Thuram's comments about calcio's race problems are spot on. Football reflects society - and I guess the popularity of Salvini says a lot about Italy.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 11:40am
@Xander95, there are a good dozen of West Asian countries. My heritage stems from Armenia, Lebenon & Iranian.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 11:27am
The problem with Italy and race/immigration is education. all Italians should research their own immigration to the USA. Alphonse "Scarface" Capone is to this day considered the worst/most powerful criminals in modern history. He employed thousands of Italian immigrants to build his underworld empire who themselves could be considered criminals.Charles" Lucky" Luciano was such a powerful Cosa Nostra boss that he made problems for the USA war effort during World War II. Cosa Nostra is Ital-USA
on the 5th November, 2019 at 11:10am
Was with the article 'till this line:"calling someone an animal, something less than a human being"

Because we feel so arrogantly superior that we consider humans worth 'more' than other mammals/animals?

So all humans are equal, but a monkey, cow or pig is 'lower' than humans? Way to go, playing the moral philosopher calling everyone equal but then disgarding other mammals as 'lower beings' in the process.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 10:04am
I am getting more and more confused. Why Italy and "most blatantly in Bulgaria" being racists countries but UK who voted Brexit not. Brexit in which nationwide paries to leave EU were campaigning against Romanians, Pols and Bulgarians. The whole Brexit is about stopping other nations comming to UK. UK which has more expats in every corner of the world than any other nation.
@Susy Why 10 people doing the same thing "most blatant in Bulgaria" and 10 people in Premier league not as blatant?
on the 5th November, 2019 at 6:55am
Reading the majority of the comments it's palpable why racism is still such a major issue in Italy.

1) Corruption, and general degradation of mental health and freedom

2) Extremist groups and the support they get from top ranking politicians and influential members of society

3) Xenophobia and casual attitude towards prejudice and hate speech

Susy's blog is 100% correct - it's the 21st century but a lot of Italians are still Neanderthals. Sad...

PS: Dan, you're despicable and rotten...
on the 5th November, 2019 at 4:25am
Just to all of the posters blaming immigration. The thing about immigration is it's like the rain. You can moan and moan and moan but it's never going to go away. Italy is right next to Africa and Eastern Europe and has an ageing population that can barely support itself. So immigration is a fact of life. Your choices are to remain angry at the world or you can get end on with your life. Blaming immigrants didn't work out too well for England did it?
on the 5th November, 2019 at 3:13am
football is backwards. The lack of stadium ownership or even security means that the clubs will continue to struggle financially. And matches just aren't pleasant. Whether it's the racist abuse or some Ultras boycotting or threatening players, the whole thing is just unpleasant. The solution is simple. Clubs need to decide whether they want to fill the stands with hooligans or families. In England they went for the latter. In Italy it's still the former.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 3:09am
Balotelli's story is an absolute tragedy. He is largely to blame but his career has been destroyed by his toxic agent who has moved him around like some casual worker. He should never have left Milan. As for the racism that is directed at him that is just part of the wider tragedy of Italian football. Not Italian society mind. I see how the comments have moved to illegal immigration and refugees (Really? Here?) but Italy (and Greece) have done a phenomenal job taking in refugees. But Italian
on the 5th November, 2019 at 3:06am
@Jez & Dan
Expanding the security state will yield the opposite of desired results. Look back into 20th century history, specially in Italy. Understand the historical moment we live in. You can't turn off the tap on refugees. There will be more and more as the century progresses with climate change, over-population, and economic instability.
Europe needs a humane, logical approach to dealing with this crisis.
Violating human rights and expanding state power is not the way forward.
on the 5th November, 2019 at 2:34am
@Jez and Dan
I enjoy reading your thoughtful contributions about calcio but I am going to respectfully suggest you may not fully understand the refugee crisis.
Fleeing a war-zone or poverty is hardly any more of a voluntary choice than pulling your hand from a flame.
People know it's dangerous to cross the Med., but it's more dangerous to stay. Put yourselves in their shoes.
You can't preserve Italian culture by becoming a barbarian. 1/2
on the 5th November, 2019 at 2:29am
than it does Africa. Then West Asia which is no country I have ever heard of. Yes a lot of racism has become trivialized by the pc brigade whom I despise as much as the racists themselves but you have gotta wonder about certain people. Lolito's words, those of Juric then the jackass ultra not to talk of the 80 yr old man talking smack about giving Lukaku a banana. Susy was talking about football you had to bring something else into it like you were trying to get it off ur chest.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 11:42pm
@Dan I am no internet hardman that is why I opened up a challenge to you if you are in indeed in London. You decided to bring in how "hate speech" is trivialized and how people should be able to say what they want. Then out of left field you bring in illegal immigration. What has that to do with the article? Like all racists they bring up but "I have a black friend" instead of owning their bull. You say you are Italian, Egyptian which is a North African country that identifies more with Arab
on the 4th November, 2019 at 11:32pm
If Italy got rid of corruption in government it would be much better off, if Italy got rid of its' immigrants it would be much worse off. Put your energy in getting a better government and political system rather than scapegoating minorities.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 11:12pm
Racist and anti-refugee people lack empathy, understanding and choose to ignore history. For the better half of the 20th century Europeans were the largest number of refugee and immigrants. Italians have spread to every corner of the world and many have experienced persecution themselves. My Dad is one of them. He left Italy 70 years ago. Yet I hear him say there are many foreigners in Italy. I try to explain the irony of his statement but a guess it taps into some primal part of his brain.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 10:37pm
@Dan , kind of random question but what does West Asian mean ? like Middle Eastern or from the Caucasus
on the 4th November, 2019 at 8:57pm

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