Naked racism has dominated Italian professional soccer for the past few months. Fans have continued to hurl racist insults at black players, and despite the anger of the players, the Italian soccer establishment has done very little to punish teams or meaningfully combat this behavior in any way.
How are things going in Italian youth soccer, though? Things couldn’t possibly be as bad at that level, right? Wrong! An incident involving racist language from the mother of a youth player has apparently resulted in two teams committing to paint their faces black in a symbolic effort to fight racism.
Soccer writer Zach Lowy detailed this incident in a Twitter thread, which has been confirmed by a post on the Facebook page of one of the teams. Several youth teams in Italy are actually donning blackface to fight racism.
The kids in this game, which happened on Saturday, were around 10 years old. According to Lowy, the mother of a player on the Sovicese team aimed a racist insult at a player on Aurora Desio, which was witnessed by several other adults. Aurora Desio demanded that Sovicese open an investigation and refused to play against them in an upcoming match if the mother wasn’t identified and suspended.
After Sovicese opened an investigation, Aurora Desio softened its stance and agreed to participate in a “symbolic gesture” with Sovicese. It’s not clear how the idea of blackface came about, but Alessandro Crisafulli, the general director of Aurora Desio’s youth sector, explained that Aurora Desio is very educated about racism.
All of that seems great, but this team also just agreed to let its players wear blackface to fight racism, so perhaps the code of ethics and those workshops aren’t as effective as one might hope.
There are lots of ways to symbolically fight racism, but painting your face black really isn’t one of them. Though considering Italy’s habit of hurling racist insults at black players and then insisting that those insults aren’t racist, this development isn’t really surprising.
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