Racism within Serie A

During the second half of Sunday’s Serie A clash between Hellas Verona and Brescia, former Manchester City and Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli threatened to abandon the match following racist abuse from the Verona fans. 

However, Balotelli was convinced to play the remaining minutes by officials and teammates, as the anti-racism protocol was followed by the referee warning fans that the match would be stopped following further abuse. 

Hellas Verona were ‘punished’ as a result of the chanting and handed a partial stadium closure for one match. 

Italian born Balotelli took to Instagram following the match to say, “Thanks to all the colleagues on the pitch and outside of it for the solidarity shown towards me and all the messages received from you fans.  

“You have proven to be real men unlike those who deny the evidence #notoracism.” 

The incident is just one of many that have been occurring increasingly in the Italian top-flight, and it seems as though little is being done by the Italian Football Association (FIGC) to stop it. 

Back in September on Italian state television, FIFA president Gianni Infantino praised the English Football Association for its punishment towards racist fans whilst also calling for more from the appropriate authorities. 

Infantino said, “You need to identify those responsible and throw them out of the stadiums. You need, as in England, the certainty of the penalty. You can’t be afraid to condemn racists, we need to combat them until they stop.” 

The statement came as a result of three incidents where AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, Fiorentina’s Dalbert Henrique and Internazionale’s Romelu Lukaku were all subject to racist chanting, and despite all this, the largest punishment from the offences was a £9,000 fine for Atalanta in the Dalbert case, whereas Cagliari avoided sanction from the FIGC after monkey chanting was directed at the former Manchester United striker. 

It is evident that appropriate punishments are not being handed out to clubs and particular fans who partake in abhorrent racist abuse, however, it is not solely the role of the Italian footballing authorities to stop racism, as clubs must also help stop abuse from the stands. 

Manager of Hellas Verona, Ivan Juric, insisted that no racist chanting occurred and stated, “Balotelli’s reaction? I’m not afraid to say it: Today there was nothing. 

“We don’t create a case where there isn’t, it would be a lie!” 

The comment denying the abuse and suggesting that Balotelli was lying is deplorable, especially considering the fact that video evidence of the racist chanting was posted by Balotelli to his Instagram story. 

Brescia did however support Balotelli in the incident, taking issue with the fact that people would ‘deny or minimise the gravity of the incident.’ 

A great example of how a club should respond to racism comes from West Ham, who banned a ‘fan’ for life after a video appeared of the individual making racist remarks at away fans. 

The club then released an update to their club website stating a “Zero tolerance on abhorrent behaviour,” and that there is “no place for it at our club.” 

If more racist incidents arise in Serie A, it is the job of the FIGC and clubs to hand out severe punishments to those so-called ‘fans’ that will stop further incidents occurring, otherwise, we will continue to see players fall victim to disgraceful abuse that has no room in our society, never mind our beautiful game. 

Sub-edited by Archie Griggs 

This image of Mario Balotelli by Илья Хохлов complies with the Creative Commons License.

This image of a Serie A stadium by Matteo.favi complies with the Creative Commons License.

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