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Lukaku wants soccer authorities to do more to combat racism

By DANIELLA MATARSeptember 2, 2019
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Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Lecce at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Lecce at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku called on soccer authorities to do more to combat racism after being the latest target of racial abuse that continues to blight the Italian game.

Lukaku converted Inter’s winning penalty kick against Cagliari on Sunday and then glared at home fans behind the goal as they had been directing monkey chants at the former Manchester United player, who is black.

“Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse.. I did yesterday to,” Lukaku wrote on Instagram on Monday.

“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 world react strongly on all cases of discrimination!!!”

Lukaku also called on social media companies to take action.

“Social media platforms (instagram, Twitter, facebook..) need to work better as well as with football clubs because everyday you see at least a racist comment under a post of a person of colour.. we’ve been saying it for years and still no action.. Ladies and gentlemen it’s 2019 instead of going forward we’re going backwards and i think as players we need unify and make a statement on this matter to keep this game clean and enjoyable for everyone.”

Former United teammate Paul Pogba was recently targeted on Twitter with racial abuse after missing a penalty. Everton forward Moise Kean was subject to racist abuse when he played against Cagliari for Juventus last season, as was Blaise Matuidi the year before.

The Italian league did not sanction Cagliari for either incident, nor did they do so when Sulley Muntari was abused by the same team’s fans in 2017. The Pescara midfielder was so infuriated after unsuccessfully trying to get the referee to halt the game that he walked off the field and was shown a second yellow card and given a one-match ban, which was later overturned.

In response to the Lukaku chants, Serie A announced a new initiative to be launched in October whereby one player from each team will join an anti-racism team as “a testimonial that will be the bearer of the values of respect and equality.”

Cagliari vowed to do everything it can to eradicate the problem but also strongly defended its fans’ reputation.

“The Club underlines — once again — its intention to identify, isolate and ban those ignorant individuals whose shameful actions and behaviors are completely against those values that Cagliari Calcio strongly promotes in all their initiatives. Every single day,” the Sardinian club said in a statement .

“Cagliari Calcio does not want to underplay what occurred last night ... but firmly rejects the outrageous charge and silly stereotypes addressed to Cagliari supporters and the Sardinian people, which are absolutely unacceptable.”

Lega Serie A, the Italian topflight’s governing body, retweeted Cagliari’s tweet linking to its statement along with the words “On and off the pitch, one message: (hashtag)NOTORACISM,” but has otherwise remained silent and has not responded to emails asking for comment.

Cagliari joined Lukaku in asking authorities to do more.

“Full solidarity to Romelu Lukeku and even stronger commitment toward annihilating one of the worst plagues that affects football and our world in general,” it added in its statement.

“However, as we are aware that technology is not enough, we believe our commitment needs a real support by the rest of the football stakeholders: starting from all the true supporters, to all the stewards in the stands, from police and security agents, passing to media and as well through Lega Serie A and FIGC. Cagliari Calcio is asking you all a solid help to win a battle that involves everyone. No one excluded.”

Cagliari could be punished on Tuesday when the league’s judge hands down sanctions following the weekend matches. The Italian soccer federation president has called for swifter retribution to similar incidents.

“What happened last night at Cagliari is serious regardless of the number of those who were guilty of these ignorant racist chants,” Gabriele Gravina told Italian national news agency Ansa.

“I don’t want to enter into what is the jurisdiction of the sporting justice system, which will proceed in autonomy in respect to the regulations ... we have to make the sanctions still more forceful and more rapidly applied in order to fight this unjustifiable act.”

Inter did not release a statement of its own but also retweeted Cagliari’s tweet, adding the words “BUU (hashtag)BrothersUniversallyUnited.”

BUU, an acronym for Brothers Universally United, was the initiative Inter started in January when it was forced to play two matches behind closed doors as part of its punishment for racist chanting against Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly in a Dec. 26 league match.

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