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Moise Kean racism row: Possible punishment should fit the crime as racial discrimination resurfaces in Italian football

Juventus teenager Moise Kean is of Ivorian-Italian descent. The 19-year-old was subjected to monkey chants at Cagliari after he scored a late goal to make the score 2-0 for the Italian champions Juventus. He later faced public and private admonishment from teammate Leonardo Bonucci and manager Max Allegri for celebrating in front of the Cagliari Ultra, Curva Nord stand.

After the support of alleged rapist Cristiano Ronaldo, this act of reprehensible moral bankruptcy from Juventus has yet again caused a cumulative furore in world football, drawing censure and shock from fellow footballers, racial attack victims, journalists, and fans. However, here we will attempt to explain why the sequence of events should be of little surprise in the Serie A.

 Moise Kean racism row: Possible punishment should fit the crime as racial discrimination resurfaces in Italian football

Moise Kean was subjected to racial abuse in Juventus' game away at Cagliari in Serie A. AP

The political paradigm

Funnily enough, it was Alessandra Mussolini's Twitter beef against Jim Carrey (moonlighting as a political caricaturist) that made the wider world aware of Italy’s current political climate. Alessandra was seen defending her Nonno's (grandfather's) crimes against humanity standing in the year 2019.

Alessandra has been a member of the Italian Senate since 2013, was elected for Forza Italia, and has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2014. Forza Italia is a right-leaning political party in Italy whose ideology includes conservative tendencies that align with the Trump government. The fact that a person holding the surname of Mussolini enjoys a public let alone a political life, still finds justification to uphold the sheep-dressed-in-wolfskin values of neo-fascism but also have Italian people vote for her, is an indication of how modern Italians have reconciled with their dark past.

Frank Bruni, The New York Times reporter, sent a warning of this time to come in his report "A Proud Mussolini Refuses to Let 'Il Duce' Be Vilified." In her first political campaign in 1992, she was quoted saying "I'm a Mussolini. I believe in him and what he did for Italy."

The early '90s coincided with the reawakening of faux nationalism in life and in football, with hooliganism across Europe reaching its diabolical peak. World Cup Italia 90 saw the first indiscriminate use of water cannons and rubber bullets in view of a global audience. The Italian Police arrested 246 British fans. Both England and Italy were facing low employment rates and resentment towards immigrants and people of colour was spewing under the surface. Among many cases of racial attack being perpetrated in the shadows of the biggest event of the world, two Tunisians were beaten up within inches of their lives with bottles in Bologna.

In 2019, while England's top flight is still struggling to cope with covert racism in both women's and men's football, in managerial assignments, and in particular stands, the overt racism in Italy shows no sign of abating.

Emotional maturity and a lack of

Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri or Dante, the quintessentially-Italian philosopher who dealt with the levels of morality and obligation is quoted saying, "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."

After the incident at Cagliari, Bonucci, often times a stand-in captain for Juventus had this to say about his team-mate Kean: "Kean knows that when he scores a goal, he has to focus on celebrating with his teammates. He knows he could've done something different too. I think the blame is 50-50 because Moise shouldn't have done that and the Curva (Cagliari's fans) should not have reacted that way."

Bonucci was alluding to Kean standing in front of the Cagliari Ultra stand with his arms outstretched after scoring a late goal, subjected to racist chants for the course of the match, with his every touch being hissed and booed at. The 19-year-old displayed emotional maturity and an acute sense of timing. Through that goal and celebration, Kean symbolised one of football's few redeeming qualities: its meritocracy.

Kean, through his talent and through his determination, deserved to be there as anyone else. In fact, perhaps more so than others. And yet this is what his manager Max Allegri said: "You need great intelligence to deal with these situations and should not go to provoke people." The victim is being shamed.

The Cagliari President, Tommaso Giulini, like most Italian football presidents, was offensively neutral. "If Bernardeschi had celebrated like that, he would've been treated exactly the same way by our fans. If Dybala had the same drama queen antics after the goal that Matuidi did, he would've been treated exactly the same way."

These men represent the prevalent reactionary bias and apathy for people of colour. Anyone who believes Kean should have celebrated in any other way is compliant to the rhetoric.

A Harvard research on the effects of racism show victims can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder manifesting itself in ways through depression (Sulley Muntari), self-harm (Mario Balotelli as a young footballer used to scrub his skin with bleach) and substance abuse. This is not to say some don't deal with it in a better way, but we are talking about a 19-year-old naturalised Italian of colour who will have his worldview shaken, pushed in the way of a runaway horse carriage by father figures in his own club. Seeing him solely as a footballer dehumanises him.

Aiding and abetting

The irony is not lost on Italian journalists. Juventus are at the forefront of football clubs repositioning themselves as lifestyle superbrands — with clubs offering a summer-through-winter collection of polos, power suits, and haute couture. At the grand unveiling of their ultra-modern logo in 2017, world-famous mixologist Tommaso Cecca was sliding experimental and oddly coloured drinks across the table, while Giorgio Moroder, the inventor of electronic music was playing a set —  they were an allusion of the forward facing club Juventus believed themselves to be.

This and the fact that Juventus are also at the leading supporters for a European Super League looking to build a diversified global fan-base; while at the same time having a captain and a manager who victim shame their own player is a dichotomy that cannot be abided by. But it also gives us an insight into Italy's institutionalised racism and tolerance for intolerance and backward mentality.

Little is expected from the Italian FA. Cagliari have been repeated offenders: Blaise Matuidi was racially abused in 2018, Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch in 2017. Their punishment have been a clip on the ear. However, it'll be myopic to suggest that blatant shows of discrimination are not widespread in Serie A.

Kick It Out issued this statement: "Ultimately if UEFA, football associations and referees cannot do the job of protecting players from racial abuse, there can be no complaints if they begin to take the situation into their own hands." But how will one rival player walking out not encourage the racists?

From George Weah to M'baye Niang, Mario Balotelli, Urby Emanuelson, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Samuel Eto'o, Kalidou Koulibaly and innumerable others in Italy's lower league and youth teams, black players have been subjected to racism. There's a deeply ingrained problem in Italy's football culture. It's not been addressed since the time of Fabio Liverani (the first black player to represent the Italian National team as late as 2001).

As former Liverpool player and England's first black superstar footballer John Barnes points out, football is an accurate representation of society. It amplifies the prejudice, political belief, ignorance and ill will.

Many in attendance in the Curva Sud and Ultra crowds are children watching their father figures participate in racist chants, thus normalising and perpetuating a behaviour through the generations; passing racism off as legitimate banter.

Borussia Dortmund Twitter posted a picture of Marco Reus dummying Bonucci. Balotelli addressed Bonucci on Instagram: Balotelli: "He's lucky I wasn't there. Instead of defending you (Kean), he does this? I am shocked." While Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling, Stormzy's statements on social media have been a nice touch, the lack of messages of support from white footballers and football's governing bodies is conspicuous.

What is required is a strong message from UEFA and FIFA: punishment doled out that actually hurts and not token gestures as fine and behind-the-door matches, but immediate eviction from international cup and domestic cup competitions, point deduction and perhaps relegation for repeat offenders like Cagliari.

The punishment should fit the crime.

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Updated Date: Apr 04, 2019 17:19:52 IST

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