When I first started contributing to Serpents of Madonnina, racism had once again come to the forefront of Italian football and Inter Milan. First off, the Curva Nord decided to align itself with fascism and racism by unveiling a display at the first game of the season honouring the recently killed Lazio ultra leader known as Diabolik. This man was a racist neo-fascist criminal, yet in the eyes of the Curva he was worth celebrating.
One week later and racism had again overshadowed football, this time in Inter’s away trip to Cagliari. The monkey chants aimed at Romelu Lukaku drowned out everything else; even the commentators. Too loud to simply be dismissed, as is typically the case in Western society, as a ‘bunch of idiots’ or ‘a vocal minority’. This was aggressive, calculated racism directed at a black player by an organised section of a major Italian club’s fanbase who only months prior had done the exact same thing to Juventus’ Moise Kean. Why did history repeat itself? Because there were no consequences severe enough to discourage it. Because the Italian Football Federation both does not understand or care enough about racism.
How do I know this? Because this was their initial attempt at an ‘anti-racism’ campaign.
In perhaps the most sickening part of this story, an Inter ultra group posted ‘on behalf of the Curva Nord’ a statement written in a deeply unsettling style as a message to Romelu Lukaku.
“We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist.
“You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem.
“In Italy we use some ‘ways’ only to ‘help our teams’ and try and make our opponents nervous, not for racism, but to mess them up.”
This should have been enough for Inter to issue stadium bans, to temporarily close off the Curva, to take the sort of action that was and is desperately needed. But it didn’t come. It never does.
It hasn’t come from the Italian sporting media either. Corriere Dello Sport displayed their own racism in unbelievable fashion with their ‘Black Friday’ headline, and then further demonstrated their ignorance by doubling down on their initial mistake and refusing to apologise.
If it is not apparent by now that racism in Italian football is not simply a small but loud minority by now, you either aren’t listening or you don’t want to listen. If you don’t see that white privilege exists as protection from this vicious cycle of abuse, empty statements and then silence, you are either blind or looking away on purpose. If you are more offended by a generalisation of these so-called supporters as racists than you are by the racism they perpetrate, let’s be clear, you’re not welcome here.
It is not enough anymore to simply distance yourself from racism. It is not enough to disassociate from racists, whether that be in football or in wider society. It is not enough to condemn this explicit racism whilst refusing to face casual racism in your own circles. In fact, it never was enough. I must admit that I did not do enough to recognise this for a long time, and for that I have to apologise, learn from my own mistakes and then act.
The responses to the murder of George Floyd have shown us once again that protest and direct-action works. We’ve seen the degree of murder charge raised against the officer responsible, large companies held to account more than ever before, and more and more people acknowledging and utilising their privilege for positive ends. The lessons from this need to be applied everywhere. Football is no exception.
If you have the time to read this article, you have the time to do one thing to help. Please go and sign a petition, donate to a worthy cause, write to your local politician or simply spend a bit of time reading and educating yourself.