FIFA president lambasts Italian soccer for ‘hiding’ racism

Inter Milan's Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, right celebrates with Italian head coach Antonio Conte after scoring during the match against AC Milan on Saturday. (AFP/File)
Updated 24 September 2019

FIFA president lambasts Italian soccer for ‘hiding’ racism

  • Gianni Infantino: Identify fans responsible of racism and throw them in jail

ROME: FIFA President Gianni Infantino lambasted Italian soccer authorities for “hiding the truth” about racism in a scathing assessment Tuesday following a complete lack of punishment after three cases of discriminatory chants during the four opening rounds of Serie A.

Three black players — Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, and Fiorentina’s Dalbert Henrique — have been targeted by racist chants but no sanctions have been handed out by the Italian league, federation or police.

“I don’t see why we have to hide the truth, not talk about what happens or say that it is not serious. No, that’s not how you go about it,” Infantino said in an interview with Sky Italia. “It’s unacceptable, absurd and surprising.

“It’s upsetting, because Italy is a country that people love, where you can live and eat well, where there’s culture,” added Infantino, who is the son of Italian immigrants to Switzerland. “This is supposed to be a modern, civil, polite country. And I think it’s moving in the wrong direction.”

Infantino suggested identifying fans responsible of racism and throwing them in jail, calling on the Italian federation to work with its clubs and local police.

Likewise, the Italian government’s new sports minister vowed to eliminate racism “with more severe and efficient sanctions.”

“I will dedicate myself toward eliminating it from stadiums during my mandate — even at the cost of making unpopular decisions,” Vincenzo Spadafora, the minister, told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

“The time has come for everyone to assume responsibility: Institutions, politicians, federations and fans,” Spadafora added. “Soon I will meet with all of the sports representatives to share with them a significant change, with more severe and efficient sanctions.”

Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Fiorentina on Sunday was suspended briefly during the first half due to chants aimed at Dalbert.

However, the Italian league’s judge announced Monday that he has yet to decide whether Atalanta warrants punishment. Judge Gerardo Mastrandrea said in his weekly disciplinary report that Dalbert needs to be interviewed before his decision is made.

Following FIFA’s “three-step process” for handling racism inside stadiums, referee Daniele Orsato ordered a warning to be read over the stadium’s loudspeaker that the match would not resume until the chants ceased.

The FIFA process requires the referee to briefly pause a match at the first hint of discriminatory chants and request an announcement over the stadium public address system asking fans to stop. If the chanting persists, the referee can suspend the match and order the teams into the changing rooms until it stops. If that doesn’t work, the referee can stop the match definitively.

While the FIFA process is straightforward it has rarely been implemented in Serie A.

“The problem is, we have some laws stipulating that if it’s a concrete number of people we stop the match. If it’s 2, 3 persons or 10 persons then we cannot stop the match,” Danilo Filacchione, the Italian football federation’s international relations director, told The Associated Press in Ljubljana, Slovenia, after attending a UEFA meeting.

“But the clubs are also fighting,” Filacchione added. “We are doing our best.”


Pakistan: No more international cricket at neutral venues

Updated 10 December 2019

Pakistan: No more international cricket at neutral venues

  • Pakistan Cricket Board chief says the country is safe for international cricket
  • Pakistan’s decade-long isolation from hosting test cricket ends on Wednesday when Sri Lanka will play at Pindi Cricket Stadium

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan will no longer look for neutral venues to stage home international cricket matches.
“The onus will be on the other teams to tell us why they can’t play in Pakistan,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
“Our default position will remain that Pakistan is safe. We play cricket in Pakistan (and if) you want to play against Pakistan you have to come to Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s decade-long isolation from hosting test cricket ends on Wednesday when Sri Lanka will play at Pindi Cricket Stadium. The second test will be in Karachi from Dec. 19-23. The series is part of the world test championship.
Sri Lanka was the last team to play a test in Pakistan in 2009. Terrorists attacked the team’s bus in Lahore and eight people were killed. Several Sri Lanka players and team officials were injured. The ambush shut the door on international cricket in Pakistan. The PCB organized almost all of its home matches in the United Arab Emirates.
In the last four years, the PCB staged short limited-overs tours against the likes of Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and a World XI to show the cricket world it could host tours safely. Sri Lanka agreed to play two test matches in Pakistan only after it visited Karachi and Lahore three months ago and played an incident-free series of one-day internationals and Twenty20s.
“It’s only logical that cricket comes home,” Mani said. “People have a perception of Pakistan which is very, very different to the reality of what is happening on the ground in Pakistan today.
“The concerns that people had about Pakistan, certainly for the last year or two, were not what the ground reality is.”
Top cricketing officials from Australia, England, Ireland, and the international players’ association have visited Pakistan in the last six months.
“When they see the ground reality, it’s a different attitude,” Mani said. “In fact, it was very nicely put by the chief executive of Cricket Ireland. He said, “I have to think of a reason why we shouldn’t be coming to Pakistan.’”
Mani said he’s had discussions with officials from Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board and he hoped that both countries will tour Pakistan in the next three years.
“I am absolutely confident that in 2021 we’ll have England and in 2022 we’ll have Australia,” he said.
“We’re not due to play New Zealand now till about 2023-24, but our default position is that Pakistan will play all its home matches in Pakistan.”
Despite the impending return of test cricket, Mani conceded there might not be a capacity crowd for the test, in stark contrast to the packed stadiums in Lahore in October when Sri Lanka whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the T20 series.
“Look, test cricket had been losing (crowd) support in the subcontinent, in fact around the world apart from England and Australia,” he said.
“People prefer to go and watch the white-ball cricket (T20s and ODIs) but it doesn’t mean that people don’t follow test cricket. You’ll probably find that people watch test cricket at home on television and through the telephone or whatever these days as much as they’ve ever done.
“We haven’t had much time to do the marketing for this (Rawalpindi test) but going forward we’re going to be working very hard to ensure that we can get young people in with the schools and college students, support them to come at little or no cost, give them exposure to cricket.”