Serie A trying to get it right on anti-racism
ROME (AP) — A messed up anti-racism project launch including a painting of apes. Constant failures to penalize clubs whose fans direct monkey chants at black gamers. A scathing spoken attack from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who berated Italian soccer authorities for “hiding the truth” about discrimination.
And even public indignation from a Holocaust survivor- turned-Italian senator.
Serie A’s efforts to fight bigotry inside its arenas remained in disarray little bit more than a year ago when league CEO Luigi De Siervo chose to take matters into his own hands.
While the huge headings were everything about offending habits towards the similarity Mario Balotelli, Romelu Lukaku and Kalidou Koulibaly, it was an obscure goalkeeper born in Senegal who captured the attention of De Siervo.
Towards completion of 2019, Omar Daffe strolled off the field of a video game including his amateur Agazzanese side when no one stepped in to stop viewers in the Emilia-Romagna town of Bagnolo in Piano from directing offending chants at him. The match was suspended and Daffe — incomprehensibly — was handed a one-game restriction.
“When I heard his story I called him and asked him if he wanted to change jobs and come work for us and start this process,” De Siervo stated.
The 39-year-old Daffe was not surprisingly captured off guard when De Siervo used him the chance to organize Serie A’s workplace for anti-discrimination and business social duty.
“Yes, I was really surprised but then when I spoke with him I understood that he really wants to change things. That’s what convinced me to accept the job,” Daffe informed The Associated Press in an interview. “He asked me to bring in my own experience and my own feelings as a player and a person to provide perspective.”
A point of view that assisted affect the league’s modified awareness project that was presented throughout all Serie A formats last weekend in coordination with the Italian federal government’s anti-discrimination department.
A video including gamers from all 20 Serie A clubs and all sorts of backgrounds providing a strong message of addition was played prior to all 10 video games. Gamers used unique spots and — maybe most significantly — the Italian league teamed up with EA Sports to place a “Keep Racism Out” set on the FIFA 21 computer game so “players from all over the world will be able to get the special uniform and use it for their team.”
“We tried to do it in a manner that involves every level of soccer,” De Siervo stated, “so even kids getting into the sport learn how important the fight against discrimination is.”
It might appear unusual that the rollout happened at a time when fans are not allowed to participate in matches in Italy since of the coronavirus pandemic. However, as De Siervo kept in mind, the lack of viewers has just put bigotry into short-term hiding.
“It’s still there,” the CEO said. “The problem of racism is as old as the history of the world. With due respect, neither England nor anyone else has solved it.
“It’s not like there’s less racism in England. But there’s a different level of tolerance, because (different) people have been living together for longer,” De Siervo added. “Italy is a country where mass immigration has really arrived only recently. France has made more progress because it’s a country that is more multi-cultural than ours.”
About three decades ago, immigration was a new phenomenon in Italy, a predominantly white, Catholic nation with a long history of emigration. Today, about 9% of Italy’s 60 million people are foreign nationals, according to the country’s national statistics agency, ISTAT.
Nearly one-fifth of those foreigners come from African countries, like Daffe, who came to Italy when he was 18 and eventually became an Italian citizen.
Still, the perception from abroad is that bigotry is dealt with too lightly in Italy.
“There’s mistrust toward different people — different meaning ‘foreigners’ or simply someone who’s different,” Daffe stated. “Even among Italians, and I’ll put myself in that category because I’m Italian, there’s discrimination between people from other regions. Between the north and the south. We see that in anti-territorial discrimination. There’s work that still needs to be done in that area, too.”
Up next for the league’s anti-discrimination office are meetings with players like Balotelli, Lukaku and Koulibaly who have been the target of racism, while there are already working groups studying how to create more effective sanctions.
“What we really need to do is enable law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition technology to identify the people who are responsible, and not let them inside the stadiums,” De Siervo said. “But that’s still going to take months.
“This is just the start. We’ve got a long way to go.”
AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.
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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.