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Why do Italian football fans get away with racially abusing black players?

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Why do Italian football fans get away with racially abusing black players?
Italian footballer Moise Kean, who found himself blamed by teammates after a rival club's fans made monkey chants. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP
18:11 CEST+02:00
Juventus starlet Moise Kean has whipped up a storm by taking a stand when targeted by racist chanting during his team's Serie A match against Cagliari on Tuesday, but his actions raised barely a murmur in Italy, where racist abuse has become a recurring problem that football authorities remain reluctant to tackle.

Even Kean's Juventus teammate Leonardo Bonucci and coach Massimiliano Allegri partly blamed the 19-year-old, born in Italy to Ivorian parents, for provoking Cagliari fans with his celebrations after scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win.

Kean -- along with his French teammate Blaise Matuidi and Brazilian Alex Sandro -- had been targeted by monkey chants throughout the match, but they increased in intensity after the Italy international bagged his fourth Serie A strike of the season. The youngster celebrated with his hands outstretched on front of the Cagliari fans, drawing a barrage of racist abuse.

READ ALSO: Racism is still rife - and unpunished - in Italian football


Teammates attempt to console Kean. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

World Cup winner Matuidi protested furiously at the stadium where he too was targeted in January last year. Then the Sardinian club had apologised, but this time Kean was cast as the villain, with even fellow Italian international Bonucci saying that "the blame is 50-50".

"Moise shouldn't have done that and the Curva [where the hardcore Cagliari fans stand] should not have reacted that way."

Afterwards Kean posted on Instagram that it was "the best way to respond to racism".

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The best way to respond to racism 🦍 #notoracism 🚫

A post shared by K M B 9 🦍 (@moise_kean) on

Kean's agent Mino Raiola, who also manages Matuidi, said: "Nobody should justify racism in any way or form".

"A country like Italy should be leading on this. You cannot be racist and Italian. I am with my players until the end. If in the team or the club there are people who are not willing to fight racism they should be leaving."

Allegri called for the culprits to be identified and banned for life, but agreed Kean "shouldn't have celebrated in that manner". "We've got the technology, if the authorities want to they can identity them. The problem is, they don't really want to," Allegri said.

'Nobody wants to take responsibility'

Mauro Valeri, the head of Italy's observatory on racism in football, believes there seems to be a reluctance to tackle the problem.

"There were already incidents at Cagliari with [Ghanian Sulley] Muntari and Matuidi," sociologist and writer Valeri told AFP. "It concerns a small group of people, the [club] president might decide to crack down and punish, as is done in England, but he chooses to defend his fans," continued Valeri. "It's easier to do that, to say that Cagliari is not a racist city, which nobody says anyway."

Bonucci's reaction "totally underestimates the problem of racism," added Valeri.

Kean received support from players including fellow Italian international Mario Balotelli and England's Raheem Sterling, who said of Bonucci's comments: "All you can do now is laugh."

But there has been little support in Italy, with no comments from the federation or the Italian League, nor Cagliari or Juventus. Sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport estimated there were "a few isolated buu [monkey chants]", while the Gazzetta dello Sport counted "more whistles than buus".

"The difference with other countries is that in Italy, this issue is never faced as a real problem," said Valeri. "For many people it is not racism and nobody wants to take responsibility for tackling what is a cultural problem.

READ ALSO: As racist attacks increase, is there a 'climate of hatred' in Italy?

"Even the anti-racist movements have never been interested in this problem. In Italy, it is more serious to insult the mother – we still have the idea that you can go to the stadium and make monkey noises for an hour and a half, then you go home and you're not racist."

In December, Inter Milan was punished with two games behind closed doors following sustained racist abuse of Napoli's Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

But this severe sanction is more the exception than the norm. Most often, clubs get away with a fine or a suspended stand closure.

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