The problem with racism in Serie A reached new heights at the weekend when Verona took on Brescia. Mario Balotelli who has been repeatedly subjected to racist taunts much of his whole career when in Italy was again targeted.
The incident happened in the second half when Balotelli went over to take a corner and the section of Verona fans started doing the monkey chant. Rightly disgusted Balotelli kicked the ball in the air and then threatened to walk off the pitch. After a few minutes of whistles and jeers and with both sets of players from both sides convincing him to stay on he did just that.
But racism is going nowhere in Italy, in fact it is getting worse and this was highlighted by both coaches after the game. Where in England you would expect a manager in the post match press conference to speak up against racism, in Italy it feels that coaches do not see the problem.
The monkey chants were clearly audible and yet Verona coach Ivan Juric said: “I’m not afraid to say, today there was nothing. Lots of whistling and teasing against a great player, but there was nothing else. I have also taken so many insults over the years, I know what it means, but today there has been nothing. On the reason of the reaction you have to ask him. When there is racism, I will have no problem saying so because it sucks, even if it comes from my fans. But today I heard nothing. We don’t create a case where there isn’t, it would be a lie.”
How Juric had the gall to say such words is up to him, but what it did was underline that in Italy they do not hear or see a problem such as racism in football. His statement like many others before him seemed to want to make light of the incident and sweep it under the carpet. Perhaps and hopefully in the coming days with video evidence he will change his mind.
It is worrying when a situation is obvious and the coaches and presidents of clubs do not speak up. After the game Balotelli went to social media to thank his teammates but at the end of the day he must be disappointed with Juric’s comments. Aren’t we supposed to be taking steps forward and not backwards? However when UEFA do very little to educate and reinforce racism- banners do absolutely nothing- then we are left at a stalemate.
In England racism has almost disappeared from the stands. Yes of course it is there, but who remembers Balotelli having to stop a game and getting visibly upset when he played in the Premier League? Perhaps he needs to check again if playing in Italy is the right career move for him. However being Italian why shouldn’t he play in his home country, why should he run? The real problem is inside the football dressing rooms and outside the stadiums, sadly it seems that nothing is going to change quickly.
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