As the world of football condemns the racist chanting that was directed towards Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly at San Siro on Boxing Day, comments from a top Italian politician shows that Italy has a problem with racism that goes deeper than just Inter Milan fans.
Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini appeared on an Italian TV show on Friday and appeared to play down the suggestion of racist chanting at the Inter v Napoli match, saying that racism must not be confused with “banter” within a football stadium.
“Racism in 2018 is idiotic and stupid,” he told Radio Kiss Kiss Naples.
“All I say, as interior minister of Italy and as a fan, is we must avoid generalising things. Monkey chants in the stadium certainly must be condemned. This must not be confused with supporting your team.
“There is a rivalry between Napoli and Roma, rivalry between Milan and Inter and there is banter and jokes which end with the final whistle and which I think are part of the game, as long as they don’t go beyond the boundaries of good taste of sport.”
Salvini then doubled down on those comments during an appearance on Italian TV show Tiki Taka.
“Racism is the stuff of idiots in 2018, but let’s not put everything in the same pot,” Salvini said
“In the stadiums they also sing ‘Milan in flames’, would that be racism too?
“[Leonardo] Bonucci was booed by the Milan fans, is that racism? Healthy teasing among fans is not to be considered racism.”
Absolutely speechless at those comments, especially where he compares a player being booed to a player being subjected to monkey chants.
As well as the racist abuse received by Koulibaly, the match was also marred by tragedy when an Inter fan was killed after clashes between rival supporters before the game.
Police named the victim as 39-year-old Daniele Belardinelli, and the country’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he believes Italian football needs to send out a “strong message” in the wake of the trouble at San Siro, with the possibility of suspending football for “fruitful reflection.”
However, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina ruled out a suspension of the league following a conversation with the appropriate bodies.
The performance of referee Paolo Mazzoleni during the Inter v Napoli match has come under much scrutiny but FIGC chief Gabriele Gravina insists Mazzoleni officiated ‘perfectly’ and that ‘if players left the field then it would break the rules’.
Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti warned his side would walk off if another of their players were racially abused after Kalidou Koulibaly, but Gravina made it clear clubs had to ‘respect’ FIGC regulation.
“We all have to take some responsibility and keep the tone low,” he continued to Sky Sport Italia.
“We must have faith in the institutions. These continuous attacks aren’t good for football and the balance of our game.
“We must all be quiet: Mazzoleni applied the rules perfectly yesterday. Some statements haven’t helped the climate.
“If players left the field then it would break the rules, followed by a negative result for their team.
“That seems obvious to me: I understand everything, the needs to protect the dignity of players and avoiding these negative stories.
“However, let’s not forget that there are rules, which need to be improved. We must demand not only application but also respect of these norms.
“If not then it’d be like the Wild West.”