Friday, December 02, 2005


From the Times: National shame at fans' racism.
ALL Italian football league games will kick off five minutes late this week — by order of the sport’s governing body — so that players can demonstrate against racist fans.
Sorry for the cynicism, but that's far too little far too late. Until Italian clubs take a firm stand against their "Ultras," events like this will remain little more than meaningless gestures.
They will stand on the pitches holding up banners reading “No to racism” to protest about an incident on Sunday in which Inter Milan fans jeered and insulted the Messina defender Marc André Zoro, who is from the Ivory Coast.

The fans imitated monkey sounds and movements. Zoro, 21, threatened to leave the game 20 minutes into the second half, tucking the ball under his arm. Two Inter players, Adriano and Obafemi Martins, persuaded him to carry on. Zoro said that he was sick of being subjected to racial abuse “always, wherever I go”.
Totally understandable. That the Italian clubs and football association have let the matter drift relatively unchecked for so long is criminal.
The incident made front-page news even in a country where right-wing skinhead fans known as “ultras” often chant racist slogans and hold up banners glorifying Benito Mussolini.

“Anywhere else they would have stopped the game,” said Il Messaggero, the Rome daily. “It is time to stop this pollution of the game by a minority of imbeciles.” Zoro told reporters that “in Italy it is more a question of ignorance than of racism. He said: “Something must be done to help us, because we have relatives over here and these insults do a lot of harm to our families.”

He said that he felt at home in Italy and often tried to persuade outsiders that Italians were not racist. “But now I feel ashamed. Something comes over the fans when they get to the stadium. I dont think they understand what they are doing.”
Hmmm. I'll wager the far-right ultras aren't going to change their opinions in a long time Mr Zoro, but of the others you are probably right. We saw the same in England during the 80s. The Football Research unit at Leicester showed that when in large crowds, generally mild-mannered men can be egged on to do things they would never consider doing in a million years were they not wearing their football colours. The key to stamping out racism and hooliganism in England was to ban the hardcore offenders and ringleaders from football grounds. Let's see if the Italian clubs have the stomach for that particular fight.


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