Racism in Italian football reflects the everyday migrant experience

Italian striker Mario Balotelli has hit out at the “small minded” fans who have once again targeted him with racist abuse.

The Brescia player kicked the ball into the crowd and threatened to walk off the pitch after being on the end of racist chants during the team’s away game against Verona.

His anger is understandable. It’s not the first time Balotelli has been targeted. But very little seems to be being done in Italy – a country where racism in football has a long history.

It’s not that these racist events aren’t happening across the whole of Europe. In October, England’s Euro 2020 qualifier put the issue under the spotlight in the UK when black players on the men’s team were targeted with racist chants by Bulgarian fans in Sofia.

And, as many pundits and ex-players commented then, England has its own problems that need to be addressed.

But in Italy, the issue of racism is even more acute. In September, Romelu Lukaku, the Belgium and Inter Milan striker, was racially abused during a match in Cagliari, forcing him to speak out.

Balotelli has previously been targeted with the chant “non ci sono negri Italiani” (“there are no Italian blacks”) by Juventus fans. Not to mention the now standard monkey chants endured by players like Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan), Kevin Prince-Boateng (Milan) and Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan) in recent times.

Indeed, in an angry post on Instagram following the latest attacks on Balotelli, Boateng said: “NOTHING has changed. But we don’t give up.”

Endemic racism

Between 2011 and 2016, the Observatory on Racism in Football (ORAC) counted 249 racist incidents in Italian stadiums. But in the 2017-18 season alone, ORAC registered 60 racist incidents.

One can simply dismiss these episodes as the rotten behaviour of the ultras (the most extreme fringes of football supporters), but the truth is that racism is not confined to these extremist fringes. Racism also penetrates the institutions that regulate Italian football.

Dr Marco Antonsich, a senior lecturer in Human Geography at Loughborough University, discusses how racism in Italian football reflects the everyday migrant experience in the Conversation. Read the full article here