Italian league vows to be thorough to eradicate racism


Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku (Luca Bruno/AP)

MILAN — The Italian league has vowed to go "stadium by stadium" in its bid to eradicate racism from soccer in the country.

The season has been marred by constant episodes of racist chants and discriminatory behaviour but Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo promised that the governing body is working on "dozens of initiatives."

"Too little has been done before, almost nothing, now we’re facing it," De Siervo said at a news conference at the Lega Serie A headquarters on Tuesday. "We need time to resolve it though. Football has to be an example.

"We’ll go stadium by stadium, sector by sector and identify these people to keep them out of there."

Racist chants have recently been aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Balotelli. All the players targeted — except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian — are black.

"We’re working with what we have," De Siervo said. "The aim is to go and take them one by one and ban them from the stadiums but to make sure that 10, 20, 30 people can’t ruin the image of a city, of a country.

"There are very real initiatives but I can’t tell you because we’re analyzing a lot of things … we need to improve the regulations, lobby the government, create the conditions so we can have better instruments for the future. We also need to have campaigns with schools, in the media, campaigns that can give a direct and clear message."

The one thing De Siervo does not want to see, however, is suspending matches for racist incidents.

"Personally, I’m against interrupting a game because it damages a whole system," he said. "I understand the guys that are the target of this horrible thing … but the aim is to intervene after the match, immediately, con severe sanctions."

The press conference was hastily called after Italian media published an audio recording of De Siervo saying he had given the go-ahead for turning off microphones pointed at fans in stadiums to avoid television viewers hearing racist chants.

The audio was recorded on a mobile phone at a board meeting on Sept. 23 and leaked to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

De Siervo defended his comments, saying he was trying "to avoid transforming certain people into heroes" and prevent "the risk of imitation."

"Taking the microphone away from violent people is a well-known act," he added. "We’re not blocking anything by this, the police, the referee and officials from the Italian Federation and the league have the duty to analyze all that … but television does something else, it offers a spectacle."

However, the Italian soccer federation has reportedly opened an investigation into De Siervo’s comments.

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