Racism has run rampant in the sport of soccer as of late, but low-level Italian club Rioveggio is taking a stand in quite a peculiar way, according to Charles Reynolds of The Independent, as they painted their faces black as a sign of unity.
Rioveggio's decision comes on the heels of their Togolese player Teibou Koura getting tossed from a match for pushing an opposing player who reportedly shouted a racial slur at him, according to Reynolds.
In the team photo that has surfaced, Rioveggio players are holding a banner that says, "NO to Racism," in Italian, although many might consider the act of taking a picture in blackface as racist in its own right. Reynolds goes on to acknowledge it as a "misguided protest against racism in football."
Whatever the case, racism in soccer appears to be an epidemic that has taken on a life of its own. A number of notable incidents involving racism have occurred recently, including during a Champions League match between Manchester City and CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
According to Rob Harris of the Associated Press, UEFA plans to open a disciplinary case against CSKA Moscow after Russian fans reportedly engaged in racist chants during City's 2-1 victory:
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure appeared to be the target of the chants. He commented on the chants following the match and understandably expressed a great deal of dismay, according to Telegraph Sport:
Racism in soccer has occurred throughout Europe and has certainly been an issue in Italy, as Rioveggio can attest to. AC Milan star striker Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist chants in May, according to Pedro Pinto and James Masters of CNN.com, and he vowed to walk off the pitch the next time it happens:
I always said that if it (racism) happened in the stadium I will just do like "nobody says nothing and I don't care." But this time I think I've changed my mind a little bit. If it's going to happen one more time, then I'm going to leave the pitch because it's so stupid.
The general public usually doesn't hear about racist behavior in soccer unless it happens on a large scale, but Rioveggio has proven that it occurs on every level. There is no doubt that Rioveggio probably could have thought of a less offensive way to combat racism, but it has certainly brought international attention to the cause nonetheless.
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