After Inter Milan player Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants by a section of Cagliari fans in their league match on Sunday, a fan group of his club has written an open letter to him claiming the chants aren’t racist – instead of condemning the act.
The incident occurred when the Belgian striker, who was born to Congolese parents, was just about taking a penalty in his side’s 2-1 win in the league game. After successfully converting the penalty, Lukaku turned to the stands where the monkey chants were coming from and gazed at the fans.
On Monday, Lukaku took to his Twitter page to condemn the incident and other recent ones and called for action to be taken.
However, the Curva Nord, which is an unofficial and popular ultra group of Inter Milan, wrote a letter to Lukaku on Tuesday claiming the monkey chants hurled at him weren’t racist and were merely a sign of respect.
“We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist,” the group shared on its Facebook page.
“You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem.
“We understand that it could have seemed racist to you but it is not like that.
“In Italy, we use some “ways” only to “help our teams” and to try to make our opponents nervous, not for racism but to mess them up.
“We are a multiethnic fans organization and we have always welcomed players from everywhere. However, we have always used that “way” with other teams’ players in the past and we probably will in the future.”
The group also claimed Cagliari fans, who have a history of racially abusing black players, aren’t racist and what they did is a ritual that fans of Italian clubs do to support their teams and scare off the opposing side.
“We are not racist and so are not the Cagliari fans.
“You have to understand that in all Italian stadiums people cheer for their teams but at the same time they use to cheer against the opponents not for racism but to “help” their own team.
“Please consider this attitude of Italian fans as a form of respect for the fact they are afraid of you for the goals you might score against their teams and not because they hate you or they are racist.
“True racism is a completely different story and all Italian football fans know it very well,” they wrote.
The group went ahead to suggest that Lukaku was helping promote a notion that Italian football fans are racist which isn’t so.
“When you declare that racism is a problem to be fought in Italy you just help the repression against all football fans including us and you contribute to create a problem that is not really there, not in the way that is perceived in other countries.
“We are very sensitive and inclusive with all people. We guarantee you that in our organization there are many fans of different races or fans coming from other parts of Italy that also use this ways to provocate their opponents even when the have the same races or are coming from the same areas.
“Please help us to clarify what racism really is and that Italian fans are not racist.
“The fight to REAL racism has to begin in schools not in the stadiums, fans are just fans and they behave in different ways when inside the stadium as opposed to when they are in real life.
“I guarantee you that what they do or say to an opponent player of another race is not what they would ever say to someone they would meet in real life.
“Italian fans may not be perfect and we can understand your frustration with this expressions but they are definitely not meant to be racist,” they wrote.
Racial discrimination against black players in Italy has long been an issue denting the image and reputation of the league. However, authorities have taken little or no action to protect players, hold culprits and teams whose fans engage in such acts responsible, as well as, mitigate the incidents.
A few months ago, the same Cagliari fans subjected former Juventus striker Moise Kean to monkey chants. After scoring a goal and celebrating in front of the home fans as a response to the abuse he was receiving from them, his teammate Leonardo Bonucci and coach Massimiliano Allegri suggested he was partly to blame for the incident following the way he celebrated.