Italian football is again under the spotlight for racist abuse of players after Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants by fans during his team’s 2-1 at Cagliari.
The Belgian striker – a €70 million (Dh285.5m) summer signing from Manchester United – was preparing to take the spot-kick in the 71st minute in Sardinia on Sunday when the abuse came from the stands that continued for several seconds.
Lukaku, 26, angrily looked towards the stands before confidently converting his second goal in as many games, which came after Lautaro Martinez’s 28th minute opener for Juve and Joao Pedro’s leveller for the hosts, four minutes after the break.
Lukaku was quickly surrounded by his teammates as Inter won their second from two league matches to move top of Serie A, ahead of champions Juventus, who also are on maximum points following their thrilling 4-3 win over Napoli on Saturday.
“Cagliari have history for this,” said European football’s anti-discrimination body Fare, yet neither Cagliari nor Inter Milan made any mention of the incident on their official websites after the match.
It was mentioned by Italian media but did not make the front pages of any of the three main sporting newspapers.
Inter’s website had some quotes from Lukaku but they, also, did not mention the incident.
Manager Conte said that he did not hear the abuse from the bench and then called for more education, although he did not specifically refer to racism.
“I think that in Italy we must improve a lot and be more educated and respectful towards those doing their job,” he said.
There was a brief comment from Inter defender Milan Skriniar, who said: “These are things that should not be in football but almost always are.”
Racist abuse has been a regular problem at Italian stadiums in recent years.
In April, Juventus forward Moise Kean was subjected to similar treatment after scoring for the Turin side in a 2-0 win against Cagliari.
Serie A’s disciplinary panel took no action against Cagliari on that occasion, saying the insults were “certainly reprehensible” but that they had limited relevance and perception. However, it fined Kean for diving in the penalty area earlier in the game.
Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini and the then Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri both said Kean should shoulder the responsibility for celebrating in front of Cagliari supporters.
“What happened at the end was because of a celebration which was wrong and it would have happened with any other player,” Giulini said. Allegri suggested Kean “shouldn’t have celebrated in that manner”, although he did call on the Italian FA to take action.
The Italian’s team-mate Leonardo Bonucci said “the blame is 50-50” between Kean and Cagliari fans.
In January last year, Cagliari apologised to Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi after he was subjected to racist abuse.
Kalidou Koulibaly was showered with monkey chants last season by Lukaku’s new fans at the San Siro.
Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said the referee repeatedly ignored Napoli’s request to stop the game. Repeated requests were made to the crowd over the stadium’s loudspeaker in an attempt stop the racist chanting.
“There was a strange atmosphere, as we asked three times for play to be suspended, they had announcements with the speaker three times,” said the Napoli manager. “We asked three times for some action to be taken, but the match continued. We keep being told play can be halted, but when? After four or five announcements? Maybe we have to take matters into our own hands next time and stop play ourselves.”
In May 2017, Pescara’s Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch, also complaining of racist abuse at the ground. Serie A took no action against Cagliari, saying that not enough fans took part in the abuse to trigger action.
Muntari, who received a second yellow card for his protest, was subsequently given a one-game ban.