WHERE ARE THE WHITE VOICES?
WHAT are the Italian FA going to do about this, asked Ya y a Toure. He had arrived to speak at a symposium on how to make football a more diverse sport and instead found himself discussing the scandal of Juventus’ 19-yearold Moise Kean being racially abused, then told by team-mate Leonardo Bonucci and manager Massimiliano Allegri that he had brought it on himself.
The head of the Italian FA was not in the room. Chief executive Michele Uva had been invited to the Equal Game event at Wembley but, for reasons his officials could not explain, was not present to explain why pockets of Italian support remain the most steadfastly racist in Europe.
‘We are very sorry for what happened. We are doing our best to tackle this issue,’ said one of his staff, Cristina Blasetti. Toure then
spoke well about what he described as the Juventus ‘disgrace’, wondering aloud how many events like this, organised by UEFA and the FA, he must attend before something changed.
‘It’s always the same thing,’ Toure said. ‘Are we going to have conference after conference and nothing happens?’
Jason Roberts spoke so powerfully that you wondered why he is not at the vanguard of the FA’s own attempts to shed the game of this scourge. Roberts provides a perspective like few others, having witnessed his uncle, Cyrille Regis, wage his own fight against the bigots who, let us make no mistake, populate British stadiums, too.
Raheem Sterling’s succinct and quite excellent take- down of Bonucci on social media underlined what Roberts said about the new ways that this generation of players are finding to challenge and cut down the intellectually-challenged bigots.
‘They have now their own media channels, with their reach, their reaction and what they are able to effect,’ Roberts said. ‘They are not waiting to speak to a reporter...’
But just nine days after the abuse of Sterling was a source of such justifiable disgust, what struck you about the calling out of Bonucci and Allegri is that it played out on distinct racial lines. For those of every colour to join arms would have magnified the idiocy of the notion that Kean had the abuse coming to him.
‘It should not just be for the black players to stand up to this,’ said Roberts, development director of CONCACAF, football’s governing body in North America. ‘It should be for all of football.’ All the right noises are made when, as in Podgorica last week, race becomes one of the game’s passing controversies and suddenly the story. But there were only two national newspapers present yesterday to hear Toure, Roberts and others contribute to what was publicised as a general discussion on diversity.
FA chairman Greg Clarke gave a strong address to the two- day event on Tuesday. But he did not stay to hear the perspectives of the women who followed him on stage to talk about diversity. Clarke’s headline statement was that the racism threshold for referees walking players from the field should be lowered.
But Bibiana Steinhaus, the first woman to referee in the Bundesliga, provided some insight yesterday into how complex taking players off the field actually is.
‘You depend on the reactions of the players,’ Steinhaus said. ‘You don’t want to put anyone in a bad spot but you need to know how the player feels. Do you feel offended or is it me who thinks you feel offended?’
It was left to an organisation called the Italian Sport for All Association to speak in the Italian FA’s absence. Daniela Conti said: ‘I’m ashamed to be Italian in this moment. We have [to take] some responsibility.’
Football has been fooled into complacency about this battle being won. ‘Players of this new generation are being asked to use their talent to show this is not acceptable, as my Uncle Cyrille did,’ Roberts said. ‘In 2019 that shows how far we have to go.’
Flashpoint: Kean (left) is pushed away from Cagliari fans by Bonucci