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Racism rising like 'epidemic' in football

April 04, 2019 15:25 IST

Italy in particular has got a very big problem, I would go as far as to say it's an epidemic, said FARE's executive director Piara Powar 

Juventus' Moise Kean was racially abused throughout their Serie A match at Cagliari on Tuesday. After scoring in the match, he then stood in front of the Cagliari fans behind the goal and opened his arms

IMAGE: Juventus' Moise Kean was racially abused throughout their Serie A match at Cagliari on Tuesday. After scoring in the match, he then stood in front of the Cagliari fans behind the goal and opened his arms. Photograph: Juventus FC/Twitter

Italy is suffering from an "epidemic" of racism inside soccer stadiums fuelled by right-wing politics, according to the head of European football's anti-discrimination watchdog FARE.

Reacting to alleged racist abuse directed towards Juventus striker Moise Kean in Cagliari on Tuesday, FARE's executive director Piara Powar said he was not surprised.

"Italy in particular has got a very big problem, I would go as far as to say it's an epidemic," Powar told Reuters at a keynote conference organised jointly by UEFA, the English Football Association (FA) and the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network.

"I think part of the problem in Italy is the rhetoric of the right-wing government. It's anti-migrant and anti-African and clearly that will always feed into stadiums.

"Then you have a football association that doesn't know how to respond, given the government's position, and historically hasn't responded very well."

In Tuesday's incident the 19-year-old Kean, jeered throughout by some Cagliari fans, celebrated his late goal by standing in front of the home fans and opening his arms.

Cagliari's fans then made the noise which is described in Italy as "buu" and is regarded as a racist taunt, although some argue it is simply to annoy opposing players regardless of race.

There was no official comment on Wednesday from either club while Serie A's disciplinary committee is likely to deal with the incidents on Friday.

Immediately after the game Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said Kean was "50-50" to blame for the incidents while boss Massimiliano Allegri also questioned his player's reaction to scoring the goal.

"That was the most shocking part about it" Powar said.

Former Barcelona and ManchesterCity midfielder Yaya Toure, a guest at the Equal Game conference, described the reaction to Kean by some of his team mates as the "worst scenario".

"It was unbelievable," Ivorian Toure told reporters.

"You can't imagine how hurt I was when I saw those things happening.

"For me (Bonucci) was disrespectful of his team mate. I don't want to be harsh with him but if he was my team mate he would feel me today, believe me.

"Bonucci should be a bit cleverer than that, a bit smarter, because this is a very difficult situation. We want to see things move on and if a footballer, who is Italian and white is talking about this as 50-50....I don't want to say more."

Later on Wednesday, Bonucci posted a photograph of himself and Kean playing for Italy on Instagram with the caption: "Regardless of everything in any case.......no to racism."

Powar said his organisation was seeing a rise in discrimination across Europe with fans inside stadium often echoing the country's politics.

"In Hungary, for example, where the prime minister says he wants a white Christian country, we have seen banners inside stadiums against the so-called "Islamification" of Europe," he said.

"In Poland where the party is very conservative and wants to enforce 'traditional values' there have been in the last three weeks huge banners in stadiums abusing the LGBT community.

"These banners are 150 metres wide so there is an organised campaign and many clubs are turning a blind eye or a deaf ear. This is what happens when you have a political environment that creates hatred."

Kean says his goal celebration was best response to abuse

Juventus forward Moise Kean has stood by his goal celebration, saying it was the best way to answer racism, after some blamed it for the 19-year-old suffering alleged racist abuse in Tuesday's Serie A match at Cagliari.

Meanwhile, European football's anti-discrimination watchdog FARE described racism in football as the "Italian epidemic" and said there had been an alarming rise in incidents.

Kean, who had been jeered throughout the game, turned in Rodrigo Bentancur’s cross with five minutes left to complete a 2-0 win for runaway Serie A leaders Juve and then stood in front of the Cagliari fans behind the goal and opened his arms.

In response, Cagliari’s supporters made the noise which is described in Italy as "buu" and is regarded as a racist insult, although some fans argue it is simply to annoy opposing players regardless of race.

Kean later posted a picture of the celebration with the message: "The best way to respond to racism" while his team mate, France midfielder Blaise Matuidi, posted the same picture with the message: "Black and White. #notoracism."

There was no official comment on Wednesday from either club.

Serie A's disciplinary committee is likely to deal with the incidents on Friday, once the entire match day has been completed.

Immediately after the game, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said that Kean was partly to blame for the incidents, for not celebrating with his team mates.

On Thursday, Bonucci posted a photograph of himself and Kean playing for Italy on Instagram with the caption: "Regardless of everything in any case... no to racism."

Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini denied the crowd had been racist, saying he heard "mostly boos" and that the Cagliari fans would have reacted the same way if "any other player" had performed a similar celebration.

England forward Raheem Sterling, targeted during a 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Montenegro last week, posted Bonucci's comment on Instagram and said: "All you can do now is laugh."

In December, Inter Milan were ordered to play two home games behind closed doors after Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was racially insulted during a game at San Siro.

In 2017, Ghanaian player Sulley Muntari was booked and sent off after complaining about racist abuse while playing for Pescara, also at Cagliari.

Matuidi also complained that he suffered racist abuse in another game at Cagliari last season. The Sardinian club later apologised.

Serginho walks off pitch due to racist chants in Bolivia

Being subjected to racist taunts not only prompted Brazilian winger Serginho to walk off the pitch during a Bolivian league match but also left him questioning his future in the sport.

As supporters from home club Blooming made monkey noises and shouted racial abuse at Serginho during the match on March 17, the Jorge Wilstermann player decided to make a stand by leaving the pitch in the 84th minute.

However, while racism against players in Europe has been widely condemned in recent weeks -- with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying referees will be told to halt matches when players are subjected to racial abuse -- Serginho has been criticised in some quarters for his actions.

Recalling the abuse, the 34-year old Brazilian told Reuters: "(The fans) told me I had to go back to the jungle, asked if I wanted a banana, said I was a monkey.

"This makes you feel powerless. I simply left the pitch. And to be honest I wanted to leave, and not go back to the game or any match in the future."

Blooming, who currently sit joint top of the Bolivian first division, were winning the match 2-0 and they continued the game to secure all three points.

Bolivia's president Evo Morales expressed his solidarity with the player, as did Blooming coach, Erwin Sanchez.

However, Blooming's club president Juan Jordan defended the actions of his club's fans by saying chants were part of football’s "folklore" and also called on the Bolivian Football Federation to hand a 12-month ban to Serginho for winding up opposing supporters.

Serginho and his club both filed formal complaints.

"I'm certain that I have been disrespected twice," Serginho said.

"First by the fans and now by the rival club."

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