Racism came back into the spotlight this week after Inter’s Mario Balotelli fell victim of the Juventus Ultras. The Serie A authorities were quick to make a stronger decision than normal this time, ordering the Bianconeri to play in an empty stadium as a consequence. It was also a week when the British National Party (Ahem, Fascist Party) declared that “BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist” and went even further, saying how the ultimate goal is the “lawful, humane and voluntary repatriation of the resident foreigners of the UK.” This got me thinking about the football race row, and then racism in Italy as a whole, and I felt I should give you my personal opinion on the issue from Italy on Italy. This is a country where in the most recent elections a Right-wing party, the Northern League (Lega Nord), although not as extreme as the BNP, has been voted in on the back of public fears.
Flicking through the channels the other day I came across a programme on Telelombardia, the main regional channel for Lombardia of which Milano is the main city. It was a documentary style news report where two politicians and a presenter had gone into a ‘Roma People’ living area, these being the main people of no fixed abode in Italy, and indeed through much of Europe. The interview with one of the local women seemed more like the proceedings of a court case, as she was constantly asked why she wouldn’t denounce the thieves and criminals that she lived alongside. The Northern League political party representative almost winced as he was asked to shake her hand upon parting, and the presenter closed the programme by pointing at some houses away from the camp, declaring “Over there starts civilisation.” The truth is that this is a mindset certainly of the Northern League that foreigners (and southern Italians are included in this genre by Umberto Bossi’s party) are the main problem, and that non-Italians are a cause for danger, something that is in my opinion at least played upon by the media, creating a slight culture of fear that benefits only the Centre-Right Berlusconi coalition. By no means does this result in all Italians becoming racist – indeed I don’t think I have met a racist Italian, but this minority that share the same views, or that are influenced by them, are naturally reflected in the minority of Italian football fans that participate in racist abuse. Now I’m far from a raging Socialist as my friends will tell you, but that’s my observation of the current climate.
That aforementioned top-of-the-table clash last week, where Inter saw off the threat of Juventus in a 1-1 draw, signalled the end of the title challenge, if it wasn’t already the case previously. Such is the decline of Ranieri’s side that Milan overtook them in 2nd place, and defeat in midweek to Lazio meant that it is a run of four games without a victory now, and the pressure inevitably has befallen the Coach. This weekend they face Reggina away from home in the midst of low morale, and although we cannot seriously claim that the Calabrians will collect three points, a poor performance from Juve will heap pressure on Ranieri who has come under pressure as much for the style of play as the results. Results wise, fans would do well to keep in mind that he has worked miracles taking on a fresh-from-Serie-B Juve and skipping the consolidation season or two that most would have expected them to need. Instead they have gone straight into the Champions League places, and sweeping changes in the summer could undo all that hard work.
At the bottom of the table the relegation fight is changing to progressively fewer candidates, after Chievo opened up a seven point gap between themselves and Torino in 17th. Torino has flirted with the drop for much of the season, but after a relatively recent recovery have left Bologna in 18th, on course to be relegated in now-former Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s first season in management. This weekend the Rossoblu face 4th place Genoa at home, a really difficult one to try and end their run of zero points from a possible 15 in their last five games. Meanwhile Torino face Siena at home, a side that last week lost to previous relegation candidates Chievo 2-0, and would seem to not be the worst tie they could have played. As Lecce in 19th, three points off Torino, face Catania at home, with a real chance to surprise a few people, this weekend could see Bologna as the real losers.
Elsewhere, the primetime game is Napoli against Inter, Milan can continue their great form with a match at the San Siro versus Palermo, and Fiorentina and Roma will fight over the chance to continue a fight for 4th place, when they meet at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.