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Lazio have completed their first double against Roma since 1997/98 but their victory has been somewhat marred by an unfortunate incident to say the least. Juan, Roma’s gladiatorial Brazilian central defender, a man of African descent, was subjected to racist monkey noises by Lazio’s notoriously right wing ultras. This has unsurprisingly sparked howls of indignation from all corners, not least of all from Romanisti. Some seem to be looking for consolation in defeat by calling for our cross town rivals to have sanctions imposed on them. Others simply love any old excuse to put the boot into the ‘burini’.

But here’s the thing:

Dear Kettle,

I am writing to you as a very concerned citizen of the Kitchen to point out, that you sir, are looking rather charcoal in hue.

Love and kisses,

The Pot.

I know I should be blindly slagging off Lazio like everyone else. They do make easy targets of themselves and this post is not going win me any popularity contests with my Romanisti friends in the blogosphere or on Twitter. But stuff it. Call me soft but I am a firm believer in a little thing called ‘consistency’ which is a distant relative of that old fashioned concept of ‘integrity’. I hate racism. Not because Lazio are racist and I hate Lazio therefore I hate racism. But because racism is hurtful and wrong. Always. And we are never going to get anywhere if we fight racism by pointing the finger at our neighbours shrieking for mommy Lega Calcio or daddy FIGC to come along and put them on the naughty step. If we are serious about hating racism, we should, to coin a phrase, BE the change we want to see. There is no reason why we can’t and anyone who says we can’t is just making excuses.

Let’s start by being open and honest and saying it to the world. THIS is not acceptable:

Neither is THIS: “Inter Milan star Mario Balotelli suffers racist abuse in Rome”

Neither, actually, is THIS:

I wanted to post a link to the curva sud making monkey noises at their, our, own player Stefano Okaka after he scored against CSKA Sofia in 2009. But just like the Juan incident, there is miraculously no video of it online. There are of course illegal highlights videos of Serie A all over Youtube. But funnily enough, when something ugly happens the Lega Calcio are very good at enforcing copyright. That to me is nothing but cowardice. Sunlight is the best disinfectant for this stuff. If the gutless, lazy authorities are going do nothing meaningful to stop racism from occurring, then the least they can do is not sweep it under the carpet. Let’s see it for what it is.

If we wait for the powers that be to act, we’ll be waiting an inexcusably long time. So it’s up to us. I know that you can’t stop people from thinking what they think. You can’t stop people from being racist. But you sure as hell can stop them from acting on it on your dime. If someone makes a racist remark at my dinner table, I throw them out of my house. The same should go for a stadium – that’s our house. What goes on inside it is our responsibility. Anyone and everyone caught making monkey noises or throwing bananas on the Curva Sud should be thrown out immediately and banned from the stadium for life. You’d only have to do it once or twice and it would seldom happen again. I have heard people say that because Roma don’t own the Stadio Olimpico, they can’t ban people – citizens have a constitutional right to enter and only CONI, the stadium owners, have the power to stop them. I call bullshit. Just further excuses from a club that’s too scared to risk an income stream by pissing off its most die-hard fans. It’s simple. Roma rents the space. It’s their event, they can say who attends it. Otherwise I could turn up without a ticket and demand my right of entry. If I’m wrong and it’s really not that simple, then it is at least as simple as this: A conversation with CONI. An agreement. Surely they don’t condone racism, do they? It’s as simple as getting off their behinds, calling a meeting and working it out.

If we continue to ignore the elephant in the room that is our nasty fan base, we will suffer the consequences, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way, one day or another, when they are out of control for the umpteenth time. All it will take is one racist banner in Germany or Switzerland and we could be banned from Europe for years. Or worse, more people will get seriously hurt.

It’s good for business too. It’s sad to hear people, particularly a lot of old timers, say they don’t go to the stadium anymore because it’s too dangerous. I’ve seen it myself. It’s no place for kids. When kids can’t go and families can’t go and older people can’t go, what are we left with? Exactly what we’ve got. A passionate bunch of die-hards with pretty choreography down one end, and empty seats everywhere else. They look and sound wonderful as long as they are sticking to football, staying out of politics and keeping their fists to themselves. But they don’t do any of that and they are ruining it for everyone else. They say they supply the atmosphere and clubs can’t exist without them. It’s unmitigated rubbish. Perhaps they’ll get the pip and stay away from the stadium in protest. If they love Roma as much as they say they do, if they love it more than they love their own self-importance – they’ll be back. If not, good riddance.

In the unlikely event I ever get the opportunity to say just one thing to Roma’s owner and President, it won’t be “please sir, can we have a new attacking midfielder?” It will be:

“Mr DiBenedetto, you should make a stand. You have a unique opportunity. You are not Italian born so you are not blinded or fooled by cultural excuses. You have come from a country, like almost every other apart from Italy, that would never tolerate this crap. You don’t have any baggage and you can afford a short term financial hit for a long term gain. Mr DiBenedetto, clean up the curva and claim your place in history as the man who reclaimed calcio for our families.”

Congratulations to Lazio on their thouroughly deserved victory. I hope it was well worth the wait.

Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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