Italian football is considered to be one of the most unique and tactics-driven styles of play. Replete with rigorous tactics and rapt attention to the most subtle details of the game, football in Italy is renowned for its ultra–defensive methods; as a matter of fact, defending is imprinted in the football DNA of the nation – a fact which has been convincingly verified by the numerous defensive philosophical approaches well propagated by the Italian national team and clubs alike.
The classical “catenaccio” and, especially “Zona Mista” which helped to produce World Cup victories in 1982 and 2006 are incontrovertible evidence to the beauty of defensive football as far as Italy is concerned. However the beauty and glamorous tactical orchestration of football in Italy, blatant racism and segregation has seemed to paralyse the domestic league, thereby rendering the beautiful soul of Italian football unclean. Over time, Italian football has been plagued by the most embarrassing racist incidents while the country struggles to deal with the problem. According to an Italian sociologist and writer, Mauro Valeri, “Italian football racism is only partly about sports reflecting the outside world.” This statement by Valeri speaks volumes about how racism has been viewed as a norm in the Italian society despite the numerous racist incidents in the Italian league.
One of the most notable racist cases in the league was during a friendly match between Pro Patria and AC Milan in 2013. After the fans began shooting racial epithets at AC Milan’s black player, Kevin Prince Boateng; he responded by kicking the ball into the stands, pulling off his shirt and walking off the pitch. It became more of a show of shame when all Milan’s players followed suit.
Another racist incident which reared its ugly head had Mario Balotelli at the centre during which the Ghanaian-Italian born striker was subjected to racist chanting in an AC Milan-Roma tie at the San Siro stadium. After the match, the controversial Milan’s talisman claimed he was close to leaving the pitch and he threatened to exit the pitch if the incident repeated itself in the next match. However, Roma was fined $65,000 by Fedecalcio (Italian football federation) the following day – a punishment which drew sharp criticisms from the then head of football’s governing body Sepp Blatter and the rest of footballing world, viewing such punishment as being too lenient to tackle racism.
As if the Italian fans knew quite well that attitude is like smoke that cannot be confined within the Italian federation, the Roma fans again were heard taunting the Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who formerly played for Roma, with monkey chants during their 3-3 champions league draw in October 2017. Rudiger, in the wake of the match, noted that the problem is especially bad in Italy, citing the racist habit of the Italian fans as a reason he decided to leave the club for Chelsea in the 2017 summer.
Obviously the termite of racism has eaten deep into the beauty and radical footballing ideologies of Italian football, also threatening to kill all potentials and tactical astuteness of its domestic league. The Italian domestic league has lost a significant media coverage, as the media, which should be in position to salvage its status as one of the most dynamic leagues in the world, is equally stained with racist views and reportage. As it seems, the phenomenon is deeply rooted in the Italian society; however, football ought to preach love regardless of creed or races and it should, in all ways, be devoid of any form of political affiliation, but the Italian football has chosen to demote itself from beauty to beast over the years.
This article was written by Ayobami Atanda