By Rojo Warriors – John Dougal, Gavin Dunlop, Okito Gonzales, Conor Langford and Jamie Morrison (E119 18J Students)
This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.
I instantly felt uncomfortable. The moment I walked into one of Europe’s grandest theatres, I looked up to my right, a normal man, someone’s Father, Grandfather, Brother, was casually unfurling a huge flag. Yes, this is a common sight in any football stadium, however, it was what was on the flag that was disturbing, stopping me dead in my tracks. A huge image of The Wehrmacht Eagle (Nazi Imperial Eagle) Symbol appeared before me. Little did I know this was only the start of my ‘experience.’
The setting was Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where The Derby della Capitale (AS Roma v Lazio) was about to take place. An image of Lazio’s most famous fan, Benito Mussolini covered the away section, while chants of ‘Seig Heil’ rang around the sea of straight-armed saluting ‘fans’. This place made an Old Firm game look like a tea party. Disgusted by what I was seeing, I somehow managed to ignore it, what I could not ignore happened with just 10 minutes to go in the game. Roma’s Brazilian defender, Juan, received the ball, when all of a sudden a deafening sound of monkey chants erupted from the Lazio fans, the next time he got the ball, five to ten inflatable bananas appeared with grown men impersonating monkeys. What struck me was there were sections of people looking at us in disgust and judging us for not joining in, as if we were in the wrong. What I could not believe was, the next day, not a thing in the newspapers about it, nothing on the news channels, it was just accepted this is what happens.
That was back in 2011, fast forward seven years and nothing seems to have improved. Boxing Day 2018, Inter host Napoli in Milan in what should be a celebration of Italian football, between two of the country’s most entertaining teams. However, what followed put a massive stain on the league. Throughout what was the stand out Christmas fixture, sections of the Inter crowd inflicted sustained racial abuse on Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, with the Senegal International visibly upset throughout the game in which he was ultimately sent off.
How was this ordeal dealt with? The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) have ignored criticism and upheld a two-match ban for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly for a red card in the game in Milan on Wednesday when he was subjected to racist monkey chants from the Inter fans (Wallace, 2018a). On top of that Inter Milan have been ordered to play their next two Serie A games behind closed doors, and close part of the stadium for one further game following racial abuse aimed at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly on Boxing Day (Gladwell, 2018). It is hardly a strong stance in stamping out racism, is it? It is merely a slap on the wrists. How do you explain to young kids watching at home, when they ask, “Why is there no fans in the stadium?” or they ask why they cannot go to watch their heroes because of a fan ban? Perhaps they should take heed of Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti who demanded the game be called off. “Despite our requests, the game wasn’t suspended. I think it should have been. Next time we’ll stop playing ourselves” (Wallace, 2018b).
Despite having a terrible reputation It’s not just in Italy of course. No country is free of racism – as was demonstrated by the banana skin thrown during the recent north London derby, and the reports of anti-Semitic chanting by Chelsea fans in December (Jones, 2018). The problem of racism in the UK seems to have been highlighted once again with several incidents so far during the 2018/19 season.
Former Liverpool and England star John Barnes recently commented; “The very fact that a real banana skin came on and there was real abuse doesn’t surprise me at all. I just thought it was to be expected” (Independent, 2018)
The fact that Barnes “expected” this sort of behaviour is rather alarming, and suggests that more needs to be done out with football too, to educate society from a young age. Nobody is born racist so they must learn it and pick it up from somewhere, as the recently surfaced very disturbing video of the young Millwall ‘fan’ shows. (Unbelievable! Millwall Racist Woman Teaching a KID To Chant, 2019)
In the UK, the Show Racism the Red Card, an educational charity, was launched in January 1996. The Kick It Out organisation was launched three years earlier. What is worrying is that over 25 years later the problem is still there. With Statistics from Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, reveal an increase in reports for the sixth consecutive year. Racism constituted 53% of them during the 2017/18 season, a rise of 22% from the previous year (Kick It Out, 2018).
With these campaigns in place, why are the stats still rising?
The simple fact is that more needs to be done. It is all very well having these campaigns such as Nike’s ‘Stand Up Speak Up’ campaign that launched in 2005, which received strong criticism from certain players. Gary Neville has criticised Nike for looking to gain commercial advantage from football’s latest anti-racism campaign (The Telegraph, 2005). The criticism comes as Nike were selling black and white wristbands which became more of a must-have fashion accessory rather than a tool to promote standing up against racism.
It is all very well closing stadiums, fining clubs or arresting people, the fact is, it is clearly not working. I feel anti-racism education should be on school curriculums so children are educated from an early age. I also believe the only way to stop it happening now is to go back to what Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti suggested and players simply walk off the park with the game being postponed, that would soon stop these so-called ‘fans’ disgusting behaviour. Finally, I feel the police and clubs should work together to name and shame the people that are guilty of these crimes, ensuring their family and employers are aware of their actions. We need to stop giving racism the yellow card and once and for all show it the red card.
Gladwell. B. (2018) ‘Inter Milan given two match stadium closure after Koulibaly monkey chants’, ESPN, 27 December 2018 [Online]. Available at http://www.espn.co.uk/soccer/napoli/story/3737523/inter-milan-given-two-match-stadium-closure-after-koulibaly-monkey-chants (Accessed at 26 January 2019)
Independent (2018) ‘Raheem Sterling Chelsea abuse: Invisible banana skins thrown at black people every day, says John Barnes’, Independent, 11 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/raheem-sterling-chelsea-abuse-racism-news-video-twitter-instagram-racist-statement-john-barnes-a8677516.html (Accessed 26 January 2019)
Jones, T. (2018) ‘Fascism is thriving again in Italy, – and finding it’s home on the terraces’, The
Guardian, 29 December [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/29/fascism-italy-racist-abuse-kalidou-koulibaly-italian-football (Accessed at 26 January 2019)
Kick It Out (2018), Available at https://www.kickitout.org/Pages/FAQs/Category/reporting-statistics (Accessed 26 January 2018)
Sky Sports (2018) ‘Chelsea suspend four supporters over alleged Raheem Sterling abuse’, Sky Sports, 11 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/11577275/chelsea-suspend-four-supporters-over-alleged-raheem-sterling-abuse
The Telegrapgh (2005) ‘Neville attacks Nike PR’, The Telegraph, 10 February 2005 [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2355144/Neville-attacks-Nike-PR.html (Accessed 27 January 2019)
Unbelievable! Millwall Racist Woman Teaching a KID To Chant, (2019) YouTube video, added by Team PKO [Online]. Available at https://youtu.be/HmaqX4p0yYM (Accessed 28 January 2019) WARNING Very disturbing language.
Wallace, S (2018a) ‘Kalidou Koulibaly given two-match ban despite being subject to racist monkey chants’, The Telegraph, 27 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/12/27/carlo-ancelotti-says-inter-milan-napoli-should-have-stopped/amp/ (Accessed at 27 January 2019)