Former England striker Luther Blissett believes Italy has an endemic cultural problem with racism, stating that “a large number of fans still regard black players as being inferior” despite the fact it is now 2019.
Serie A has been in the headlines more times than the Italian FA would care to count this year, with Romelu Lukaku being the subject of 'monkey chants' whilst taking a penalty for Inter, and Mario Balotelli threatening to walk off the pitch after receiving racist abuse from Hellas Verona fans.
Officially reported incidents of racism are on the rise across the world, but the situation in Italy has become bad enough for all 20 of the clubs that make up the top flight to release a statement calling for fans to admit there is a problem and do their part in helping to solve it.
It would appear that the editor-in-chief of the Corriere dello Sport did not get that communique, however, with Ivan Zazzarone staunchly standing by his decision to run an ill-judged headline that read 'Black Friday', part of a feature previewing Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku reuniting for the first time since leaving Manchester United when Roma travelled to play Inter.
And Blissett, a Watford icon who spent a year turning out for AC Milan during the 1980s, has called for Italian authorities to crack down on racism as hard as they have done with incidents of corruption in the past.
“They have dealt with corruption in Italian football very strongly,” Blissett told the Telegraph. “But in terms of racism, apart from Inter recently, where have we seen it? It will take dramatic intervention to tackle this at all levels in Italian society and see if that then has people thinking again about their actions when it comes to football.
“It beggars belief that a paper would do this in 2019,” the former striker said of the Corriere's ignorance. “It takes me back to the headlines from the early 1980s, but at that time it was often the media drawing attention to ethnicity intending, by and large, to be positive yet clumsy in their descriptive choices.
“This is not.
“A large number of fans still regard black players as inferior. It's ridiculous. [Black players] are being held responsible for fans' abuse.
“After so many incidents this season alone, you've got to agree that there's something cultural in Italy and that's why they have resisted education and change.”