Italian FA Chief Calls for VAR-Style System to Identify Racist Football Fans

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistOctober 17, 2019

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 17:  FIGC President Gabriele Gravina attends the 'Paralympic Soccer' press conference on October 17, 2019 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina has called for a system similar to that used by the video assistant referee to be implemented in order to help identify racist football supporters. 

The issue of racism in football has spiked over the past year or so and with a particular focus in Serie A. There have been several instances this season of racist abuse occurring at matches involving Italian teams, and Gravina told reporters of plans already in motion to combat the problem:

"Clubs today are capable of identifying those responsible by using technology. We are experimenting with the system and will talk about that soon. 

"We have collaborated with the Ministry of the Interior and set some very strict laws with equally severe sanctions. 

"So we will use technology, but we can only do it with the help of the police and of the Ministry of Interior."

It makes sense that technology be used to keep order off the pitch, considering the many advancements made to enhance the quality of the game on it.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino spoke at The Best award ceremony in September and praised stars who have helped fight against racism, per journalist Oluwashina Okeleji:

Oluwashina Okeleji @oluwashina

Fifa boss Gianni Infantino made a strong statement about kicking🦵racism out of Italian football. #MeganRapinoe boldly pointed out the incredible duo of @sterling7 and @kkoulibaly26 in the fight against racism. What a time #FIFABestAwards and place to address it - #Italy.✊🏿

Gravina added:       

"It astonishes me that some chanting can be heard clearly and some cannot, so we need to work out why that is, but it's not normal.

"I'm not interested in how loud or how much chanting there is but in the principle behind it. I'm not interested if it can be clearly heard or not. If it is just one, two or 10 people doing it, we need to intervene."

Probably the most infamous instance of racist abuse this season was directed at Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku when the team travelled to Cagliari in September.

Lukaku was subject to monkey noises directed at him before, during and after his match-winning penalty and Inter ultras claimed in a letter to the strikers the chants were not racist, via the Guardian:

The Guardian @guardian

Inter fans have told their striker Romelu Lukaku that the monkey chants directed at him by Cagliari fans were not racist https://t.co/o9QV6eIt84

Sportswriter Andrew Cesare appeared on Love Sports Radio shortly after the incident and detailed the lack of understanding on behalf of many Italians:

Love Sport Radio @lovesportradio

🗣️ "They think they're just attacking the individual" Italian football expert @AndrewCesare thinks that the biggest problem when it comes to racism in Serie A is that they're dealing people who don't understand. 📻 Tune in - DAB 📲 Listen - https://t.co/XWhRQgRLH7 https://t.co/ax61qsVmwK

One could hope an increased threat of arrest or other legal ramifications might curtail the issue in Italy, though the main problem appears to be education and common understanding on a societal level.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito recently reminded of the ignorance that still resides with some when it comes to racism, per Sport Witness:

Sport Witness @Sport_Witness

Claudio Lotito | Italy's FIGC today approved guidelines to combat racism. Lazio's president: "'Buu' doesn't always mean a discriminatory or racist act. When I was little, often people who were not of colour, who had normal, white skin, did 'buu' to discourage other players."

Improved surveillance during matches can only be considered a positive in the pursuit of rooting racism out of football, and Gravina's comments suggest it may be a matter of time until such a system is implemented.


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