Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has once again been the target of a racist episode in Italy – but this time on television, with a TV commentator sacked after making shockingly abusive remarks about the Belgian international on air.
Luciano Passirani was speaking on Top Calcio 24 about the Inter Milan striker when he commented: “Lukaku is one of the strongest, I like him a lot because he has strength: he is the alter ego of [Duvan] Zapata at Atalanta.
“They have something more than the others, there’s nothing else to do. They score the goals and drag your team forward,” he added.
“If you go one-on-one with him, he will kill you. Either you give him 10 bananas to eat, or …”
That prompted program director Fabio Ravezzani to say Passirani “could no longer participate in our broadcasts” despite him being “the first to apologize.”
“One of our commentators, in trying to define Lukaku’s strength through a series of compliments, unfortunately chose a very bad metaphor that turned out to be racist,” said Ravezzani.
“We cannot tolerate that, even unintentionally, a person who speaks for hours makes racist comments.”
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READ: Monkey chants ‘not racist,’ says Inter Milan fans group
More racist episodes
Lukaku, who was signed from Manchester United this summer, has already scored two goals in three games for Inter Milan.
But his successful start was marred by Cagliari fans singing monkey chants earlier in September. He wrote on Instagram after the game: “Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse … I did yesterday to [sic],” Lukaku wrote on Instagram.
“Football is a game to be enjoyed by everyone and we shouldn’t accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame. I hope the football federations all over [the] world react strongly on all cases of discrimination.”
To make things worse, his own Inter Milan fans claimed monkey chants directed at him were not “racist”.
But an open letter from the fan group “Curva Nord,” posted on its Facebook page, claimed the Cagliari fans were showing Lukaku a form of “respect” and that Italy doesn’t have a problem with racism.
“We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist,” the group said.
“You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem. We understand that it could have seemed racist to you, but it is not like that.”
12 arrested for blackmailing club
Meanwhile, Italian police have arrested 12 Juventus ultras who were reportedly blackmailing the soccer club after it decided to withdraw a series of privileges to them, according to Italian police.
The suspects, who belong to fringe hooligan groups such as Drughi, Tradizione-Antichi Valori, Viking, Nuclei 1985, and Quelli … di via Filadelfia, are accused of criminal association, aggravated extortion, money laundering and violence, police said.
The hardcore fans reportedly sang racist chants with the purpose of blackmailing Juventus. The club would be hit by heavy fines if they didn’t give the ultras cheaper blocks of tickets that they could resell to other fans, according to police chief Carlo Ambra.
Last year, Juventus reported the ultras to police and collaborated throughout the investigation, police added.
READ: How the scourge of racism continues to tarnish English football