May 25 – The head of Serie A Luigi De Siervo has said that Italian football will adopt a “zero tolerance” stance towards racist fans, and will leverage technology to identify culprits and enforce stadium bans.
Italian football has long been plagued by racism in the stands and officials have often been seen to tolerate the situation but in the wake of the storm surrounding the racism directed at Brazilian star Vinicius Jr during the Valencia vs Real Madrid LaLiga tie, De Siervo (pictured) has promised a tough stance in his own league.
“There are in stadiums, as in society, a percentage of racist people,” De Siervo told reporters. “Today with technology and stadium microphones they can be heard and we can punish them. It’s a battle, like a tumour you have to systematically remove it even if it has recurrences.”
He pointed out that Italian football had banned 170 Juventus fans after they abused Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku during an Italian Cup semi-final last month. Those bans served as the “path to zero tolerance”.
Racism in the Italian game has however long been endemic. Italy’s Serie A is not a hospitable place for black players and the local football authorities have rarely been seen to act decisively.
Italian National Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malagò once compared racism to simulation in the penalty area: “It is wrong if someone boos black footballers, but it is even more wrong when someone who earns €3 million drops into the area and is also happy to gain a penalty.”
Malago’s words were and are representative of how Italian football deals with racism.
The onus is then on De Siervo to prove that his zero-tolerance promise goes beyond mere words.
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