There’s nothing more frustrating in life than wasted talent”- I must have used this quote from “Bronx Tale” easily twenty times to describe the Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano’s of the world in recent years, but now I can just apply it to Serie A as whole.
After two thrilling weekends of games and a transfer window that saw the vast majority of the league’s best talents stay- Koulibaly, Skriniar, Milinkovic Savic, Dybala, Donnarumma, Chiesa just to name a few- we should be talking about Serie A as a league completely on the rise and a far cry of the days of catenaccio and watching top talents inevitably move abroad. But because of another very predictable and despicable racist episode in Cagliari, the focus isn’t on the great product but rather what is allowed around it.
Just today on Twitter I saw a huge North American site in Deadpsin and “soccer”’s top reporter Grant Wahl tweeting about the incident in Cagliari rather than the thrilling Juventus-Napoli match or Inter looking like a legitimate title threat with Antonio Conte at the helm- but as frustrating as that is, it’s completely warranted.
Anyone who follows Calcio closely isn’t surprised by what happened in Cagliari yesterday- sadly the Sardinian club’s home stadium has been the stage of numerous racist incidents at the expense of Matuidi, Muntari, Kean and now Lukaku. The latest example involves the former starting striker for Manchester United, a player with over 100 career Premier League goals who went out of his way to come play in Italy- this is not exactly a great first impression.
Predictably Cagliari issued a statement that was long on abstract ideas and didn’t provide any true details on what they will do- and keep in mind this is at least fourth time this has happened there in recent years. To be fair to them, I’ll post and you can judge
“Cagliari Calcio firmly rejects what happened Sunday night at the Sardegna Arena during the game vs. Inter Milan.
The Club underlines – once again – its intention to identify, isolate and ban those ignorant individuals whose shameful actions and behaviours are completely against those values that Cagliari Calcio strongly promotes in all their initiatives. Every single day.
Cagliari vs Inter Milan was the right occasion to appreciate and enjoy positive cheer, never addressed against anybody: in fact inside our “Curva Futura” – the first dedicated sector in Italy built to host children – both Inter Milan and Cagliari supporters enjoyed a lovely evening together in the name of their passion for football.
Cagliari Calcio does not want to underplay what occurred last night, endorses the respectable moral values of its people from all the stadium sections, but firmly rejects the outrageous charge and silly stereotypes addressed to Cagliari supporters and the Sardinian people, which are absolutely unacceptable.
Full solidarity to Romelu Lukaku and even stronger commitment toward annihilating one of the worst plagues that affects football and our world in general. However, as we are aware that technology is not enough, we believe our commitment needs a real support by the rest of the football stakeholders: starting from all the true supporters, to all the stewards in the stands, from police and security agents, passing to media and as well through Lega Serie A and FIGC. Cagliari Calcio is asking you all a solid help to win a battle that involves everyone. No one excluded”
I’ve lived in Italy for 17 years as a foreigner, my wife is Italian and I go back frequently. It’s important to note that while Cagliari is the most blatant example of this behavior, it’s by no means the exception. I’ve covered at legth on my podcast how the history of Italy is laced with an “us versus them” way of looking at the world, so it’s not surprising that racism is such a hot topic there.
But there has also never been a desire to hold the people that engage in this behavior accountable- often the clubs are scared of the organized fan group and the federation has never treated this as a real problem. But there is hope that things that can change because of the times we live in.
I have often rallied against the outrage and self righteosuness culture that has developed in recent years. Social media platforms and traditional media know that if people are outraged over something, they will engage for a longer period of time. Algorithms are designed to get more stories that will outrage you in front of your eyes, once you feel outraged, you then can feel superior to the people you are outraged with and have many who see things the same away as you in your social media echo chamber to reinforce your self righteousness.
But while this phenomenon isn’t positive for society since it makes us focus much more on our differences and makes us more polarized, we can use it for a good cause here. I think it’s undeniable that there’s no place for moneky chants or blatant racism in stadiums, we need the social media justice warriors (even those who have no interest in sports) to keep raising attention on this issue and hold Italian football accountable. When it comes to racist incidents, clubs and the federation are just counting on people moving to the next story in news cycle, but hopefully enough people will continue to put pressure on them so that real change can arrive.
Serie A can learn a lot from the Premier League when it comes to handling this problem and social media can be the tool to help them realize this. Following the Heysel tragedy, English teams cracked down significantly on hooliganism, and in recent years they have held the fans who engage in racist behavior personally accountable for their actions by banning them from stadiums.
While stadiums now have the video cameras needed to identify the culprits, we need social media’s outrage culture to keep the pressure on to make things change- as they say “Twitter do your thing”, we can only talk about the great product on the pitch for Serie A in good conscience, if we do all we can to eridcate to horrible behavior around it.