x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Lazio and Roma encapsulate Serie A's racism issue

Perhaps, in time, this Serie A season will be looked on as a watershed in the battle against racism, comments Ian Hawkey.

AS Roma's players, wearing jerseys against racism, warm-up before their Italian Serie A soccer match against Napoli at the Olympic stadium in Rome on May 19, 2013.
AS Roma's players, wearing jerseys against racism, warm-up before their Italian Serie A soccer match against Napoli at the Olympic stadium in Rome on May 19, 2013.

The 2013/14 season in Italy has one important domestic date left.

It is Sunday's Coppa Italia final, in Rome, pitting Lazio against Roma in a derby denouement to a year in which both clubs have been tarnished by a regular, vile feature of the Italian football landscape.

Lazio have played to an empty Olimpico at times this season, punished by Uefa for racist incidents, among other offences.

Roma were this month fined because of the xenophobic chanting some of their fans directed at the AC Milan players Kevin-Prince Boateng and Mario Balotelli.

On Sunday, Roma's players sported T-shirts printed with the words "Roma against Racism" ahead of their final league fixture against Napoli.

But even then, during the match, chants directed against Balotelli, even though he was not even playing, were audible.

Perhaps, in time, this season will be looked upon as a watershed in the battle against racism: the season when Boateng left the pitch, albeit in a friendly match against Pro Patria, his teammates followed him and the match was abandoned; the season when Balotelli said he would consider doing the same in a competitive game; the season when a referee interrupted a game and left open the possibility he would call it off because of chants; the season when fans distributed leaflets urging the abuse to stop.

Or perhaps Italian football will plunge to a deeper nadir, and the ugly soundtrack is heard again in August and keeps on running.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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