In light of Franck Kessie being on the receiving end of racist abuse from the supporters of Hellas Verona, and another incident where Romelu Lukaku was on the receiving end of abuse while playing for the Nerazzurri in Cagliari, AC Milan have decided to launch what they’re calling an anti-racism task force. The task force will debut during Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina against their ‘cousins’, Inter. They have also termed this derby the ‘Derby against Racism’ as well.
As the BBC noted, the new task force will develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media, and in the stadiums as well. The main goal of the project being to promote diversity, and to foster inclusion among the populace.
The project has apparently, been in the works for several months, but recent events have given the club the incentive they needed to bring the project to light.
As Ivan Gazidis, the club’s chief executive himself, said:
“Diversity, inclusion and tolerance enhance the strength of the team, the club and of society as a whole.
We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”
AC Milan has been on the forefront in the fight against racism in Italy, the fact of which, makes them somewhat of an anomaly in the country. They became the unintentional leaders of this movement back in 2013, when Kevin Prince-Boateng bravely walked off the pitch after being on the receiving end of discriminatory chants from the Pro Patria supporters. The gesture of defiance won praise from the world over, and received quite a bit of media attention as well. Milan were quick to come to defense of their Ghanaian midfielder, and offered up support for him (the fact of which, garnered them some much needed good PR).
It seems that the Curvas in Italy are pretty much given free reign to behave as boorishly as they want, and to say whatever they want as well. They can be, to borrow a phrase from Dennis Rodman, as bad as they wanna be, and face very little consequences for it as well.
Milan, on the other hand, are the only major team whose fans are not known to pepper the opposition with racist abuse. This isn’t to say that the Milanisti have somehow been ‘angels’, in terms of the way they behave. Like any other set of football fans (made up predominantly of men), they are prone to displays of boorish and tasteless behavior (with some of it being downright roll your eyes worthy). And some of them have even sung offensive chants, without taking the time to realize the implications of what they were singing.
Still, the fact the Curva Sud no longer sings those songs, and does not vocalize any ape noises towards the opposition’s black players, and is even willing to support their club in the fight against racism (instead of going on the defensive), makes them light years ahead of most of the other supporters in Serie A, in terms of their thinking.
AC Milan has had to take this initiative upon themselves because sadly, the people in charge of the country have very little interest in helping them out. The FIGC (the country’s governing football body) has been, for some odd reason, really inept and downright dismissive when it comes to actually addressing the racism that permeates the terraces in the stadiums, and that runs its bony, gnarly fingers through the fabric of the country.
They don’t seem to realize that it’s a problem, and that their constant inaction over racism is actually making not only themselves look bad, but everyone who supports Italian football look bad too, as it forces us into an awkward position to defend ourselves for liking the championship and supporting the country’s players, while also condemning the racism and facepalming at the ‘verdicts’ the governing body has meted out. And their unwillingness to do anything about it, has hurt the players on the receiving end of abuse the most. Italy has for the most part, become an unwelcome environment for them, and the bad behavior from the supporters has the potential to turn fans who are appalled by the racism away, and put players off from the prospect of playing in the country (assuming it hasn’t already).
(And it should be noted, that the FIGC has often been criticized by the Italians themselves, who are very much ashamed and upset over their refusal to sanction these clubs for their supporters shameful and offensive behavior.)
It is this precise lack of action that has forced the club to take matters into its own hands. Milan has traditionally been one of the most progressive clubs in Italy, as the club can point to its proud history, where Ruud Gullit (the first man of color to win the Ballon d’Or) and George Weah (the first African to win the prize), have been proudly featured among their ranks. They can also boast of being the second team in Italy to have appointed a black man (Clarence Seedorf) as their coach as well.
They’ll have to draw on that history of progressiveness in order to find the strength and motivation they need in order to continue this fight. In the wild west of Italian football, Milan are Will Kane, the sheriff willing to stand alone in his fight to save his beloved Hadleyville from the forces of the evil racists, who somehow think that making jokes about someone’s skin color and sounding like a monkey is a ‘funny’ way to get under their opponents skin (and not in any way dehumanizing to them at all).
And let’s just hope that, just like Gary Cooper’s titular character, they’ll be victorious in the end too.