Serie A faces backlash over anti-racism campaign

Serie A CEO Luigi de Siervo and artist Simone Fugazzotto during the unveiling of artworks commissioned as part of the top-flight league’s anti-racism campaign. COURTESY: Lega Serie A

Italian football is yet again in the spotlight after artworks commissioned by Serie A for a campaign against racism in football were widely condemned following their release at a press conference on Monday.

The artworks, which will be displayed at Serie A headquarters in Milan, are paintings of three monkeys which are supposed to show varying ethnicities, according to the artist, Simone Fugazzotto, who said he has been painting monkeys for five to six years.

“I immediately thought to paint a western monkey, an Asian monkey and a black monkey, because I would like to change people’s perceptions by my work,” Fugazzotto said.

Fugazzotto said he was present at a match in which Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly was subjected to racist abuse noting that the experience made him feel “humiliated”.

“The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference, there is no man or monkey, we are all alike. If anything we are all monkeys.”

Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo defended the league’s commitment to tackling racism describing it as strong and concrete.

“…we know that racism is an endemic and very complex problem, which we will tackle on three different levels; the cultural one, through works like that of Simone; the sporting one, with a series of initiatives together with clubs and players, and the repressive one, thanks to collaboration with the police.”

Italian football has been plagued by several incidents of racist abuse directed towards black players this year such as Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, Brescia’s Mario Balotelli, AC Milan’s Franck Kessie and Fiorentina’s Dalbert Henrique.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has urged Italian football chiefs to take stern action against fans guilty of racist abuse by handing out stadium bans.

Fare, an organisation that tackles inequality in football, condemned the creations terming them as counterproductive.

Some Italian clubs have publicly criticised the manner in which the campaign against racism was characterised.

Fans also took to social media to express their displeasure with the creations and Serie A’s decision to go ahead with them for the campaign.