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...
@Dennis, oh here we go, an internet hardman. Well at least you have the guts to assign a name to your comments.

Where have I made monkey chants on this thread? People who do that are simpletons. Like Anon, you're creating your own narrative here, one that differs from reality. I only judge people by their character, not their skin colour or other immutable features. This isn't a question about race - if the boats had white passengers my stance would be the same - this is about security.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 8:39pm
@Anonymous, you call me racist, but do you really know what that word means? Before it was trivialized that is. As it happens, my ethnicity is a mixture of Italian, Egyptian and West Asian. So if I really was racist that would make me a hypocrite.

You are the perfect example why hate speech laws would be dangerous. You deliberately straw-man me, vilify me & then slander me.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 8:20pm
@Anonymous, where did I say that I'd let drown? Somehow you conflate wanting secure borders with letting people die.

You make many foolish assumptions. I don't have problems with immigration, provided that it is controlled & that those that are coming in respect our laws, people & traditions & do not seek to change them.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 8:08pm
Europeans are tired of all the refuges flooding Europe, pushed by the corrupt politicians.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:55pm
@Anonymous, By continually allowing this situation to happen, you are only going to encourage more of it.

"Because you don't want to let them in?" Where did I say that I didn't want them in? I just want a semblance of control.

As for my point about letting strangers into your home - are you really a moral person or a virtue signalling hypocrite? Practice what you preach! If you believe in open borders then open up your dwellings, do what you expect your country to do. Set the example.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:55pm
I know full well. I also know Italy has enough of its own issues. As does Greece.
There are Villages in italy that should house no more than 2k people they have suddenly doubled even trebled where crime increases old people fear to walk the streets they once walked and thats why people like Salvini are rising.
I am not interested in where the people on boats come from I am not intersted if they are white/black the bottom line they shouldn't get on the boat in the first place.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:52pm
@Anonymous, "why does it matter if they economic migrants or refugees?" Because by using the blanket term, refugees, you create a moral case to let all people in without question with little though given to our own infrastructures.

"Is it right to let people stay on a ship for weeks? No, but something should be done at the ports of exit, to stop the criminal traffickers, & to stop these people putting their lives at risk & repeating this ongoing problem.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:40pm
@Anonymous, "why does it matter if they economic migrants or refugees?" Because by using the blanket term, refugees, you create a moral case to let all people in without question with little though given to our own infrastructures.

"Is it right to let people stay on a ship for weeks? No, but something should be done at the ports of exit, to stop the criminal traffickers, & to stop these people putting their lives at risk & repeating this ongoing problem.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:40pm
Not understanding racism is not only Italy's problem, half the Europe has this issue too
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:35pm
These Italian stadiums need what premiership stadiums have which is cctv and tracking of exactly who is sitting in which seat. That way the persons i.d. can be tracked and they never buy another ticket again.

Hey thats called technology.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:14pm
Let be honest the problem isnt with football but the problem is with the people in this world. Unfortunately a lot of people are uneducated and stuck in their own little world.
Also a racist person will never ever throw anyone a racist remark face to face, man on man. This proves that its all racism.
Imagine a non white footballer made racist remark to a white person, can you imagine the uproar. Unfortunately Hitlers mentality still exists within society.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 7:05pm
What an absolute surprise to see pond scum italian in canada come on this thread to put his abhorrent views across. You are happy to be an Italian in canada but take offence that there are black or "non Italians" playing for Italy. This is my first and last time interacting with you and trust me if I was in Canada, I'd be more than happy to meet up and show you something. As for Dan if you are in London please lets meet up bro and be sure to make monkey chants to my face
on the 4th November, 2019 at 6:15pm
@ITA - saying Balotelli is rubbish at football is not racist. Making monkey chants every time he touches the ball is. And it's pathetic and the behaviour of small minded, ignorant, uneducated provincials. Who are probably also jealous.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 6:03pm
@Jez what about when Greece was taking thousands? I am not saying Italy is racist, although it is. I have lived in Italy long enough to know it and when you vote for Salvini you confirm it. I am saying you can't treat people like animals because they got on a boat! Some people come through really bad situations and are escaping and then they flee Libya where it is really bad. What Europe needs is a strategy to disperse people fairly. Do you know what a refugee is?
on the 4th November, 2019 at 5:54pm
I understand racism perfectly and I am Italian;
If you don't like Balotelli you are racist. If you think Balotelli is rubbish you are racist. If you say Balotelli is S**T you are racist. If you think Balotelli should be no where near gli Azzurri because he is rubbish you are racist. But If you dress up like a pizza chef, put a tash on your lip and throw pizza bases around shouting with an italian accent its not. We all agree?
on the 4th November, 2019 at 5:23pm
@Anonymous 4:09pm : Why did you call Dan a racist? He said nothing racist, but maybe he said something you don't want to hear, and so you prove his point. If moderators are reading this, I can't believe you let that pass.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 5:22pm

I don't think the issue here is calling a black guy black (though you seem quite non chalant about that in itself).

The problem is calling a black guy a monkey, an ape or making monkey sounds or throwing bananas.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 5:18pm
Sadly the comments reflect the ignorance highlighted in the article.
Whine about politics being brought into football... Is it a surprise?? You won't even accept the reality that political expressions of racism happen in your stadia on a weekly basis. The racists are the ones bringing the political arena to the forefront of the beautiful game.
People just don't like being called out on their B.S.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 5:03pm
Susy, you are spot-on. Rocco Commisso also is correct: the racists must be banned from stadia for life; such ignorant people will only change their backward behaviour if sufficiently punished and shamed to the margins of civil society.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:58pm
The blame can't be laid at the feet of social media, despite it offering an accessible, anonymous platform.
The rise of nationalistic, xenophobic, and sometimes outright fascist political movements around the world is a sign of crisis in the global socio-economic system. Italy should not forget it's history the last time a global crisis of this nature occurred.
Italy and other EU countries have turned the Mediterranean into a mass liquid graveyard.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:53pm
To the discussion of Balotelli
Terrible scenes, I think he should have walked off and his team mates follow this would have been much louder than kicking the ball into the crowd.
These animals in the crowd should be banned and fined personally NOT the club. 20k doesn't hurt top flight clubs but 20k on each 'fan' found guilty will hurt them, then name and shame them and ban them from every stadium in the world.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:51pm
Economic or illegal makes no diffrence to me If they are trying to enter on an illegal boat that THEY decided to get on then they can stay at sea.
Boats floating in was not classed as Europe's problem until Italy closed the doors then suddenly the rest of Europe had to take them and suddenly its Italians that are racist. The Uk had 1 boat of 4 people turn up and it was a national crisis, Italy had arrivals of 500+ per day.
No need to bring a discussion like this to football!
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:40pm
Jeering, name calling and animal sounds directed at me would never affect me at my job. I have thicker skin. Balotelli is looking for excuses instead of performing on the pitch.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:40pm
Is the racism to call black guy black? WTFFF???
Is that insult? Well he is black for god sake. Stop whining!
on the 4th November, 2019 at 4:33pm
The worst one this season was Inter Ultras letter to Lukaku explaining how Cagliari monkey chants wasn't racism.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 3:36pm
born somewhere else? Europe is a country of immigration and migration and migration has been brilliant for Europe regardless of the narrow minded views of the populists and their disciples. I would rather share a ship with people trying to improve their lives than those too vindictive to open their minds!
on the 4th November, 2019 at 3:11pm
@Dan why does it matter if they were economic migrants or refugees? Is it right to let people stay on a ship for weeks because you don't want to let them in?

You make a point about letting people into your own home etc but why? Are you inferring that by being a moral person and agreeing that people should be allowed into a country that holding those views makes you responsible for housing such people whereas if you are a racist such as yourself, you would rather let them drown because they were
on the 4th November, 2019 at 3:09pm
It's funny Susi, you use "Italians don't understand" in your heading & then go on to spout self righteous partisan viewpoints & incorrect terms. Is it "Refugees", or economic migrants that are flooding the continent illegally? If you're going to be intellectually/morally consistent, I'm going to assume that you wouldn't have any problems with exposing yourself to the same conditions at our borders, & deactivate your alarms, unlock your front gate/door & let complete strangers come in unchecked
on the 4th November, 2019 at 2:37pm
'Hate speech' is a term that is often not clearly defined. It's become trivialized & used as a means to mischaracterize & silence those don't that share the same opinion on almost any given subject. We're opening a very dangerous door if we're surrendering our free speech to the government, because if they can control what we say, in time they will control what we think. It is very much Orwellian.
on the 4th November, 2019 at 2:26pm
'I hear you are a racist now Father?'
on the 4th November, 2019 at 1:28pm

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