Anti-racism campaign featuring apes by Italian Soccer League rakes up a controversy
Chennai, December 19: A campaign launched earlier this week to fight racism against Black players in soccer stadiums in Italy has raked up a controversy, with adverse reactions to its attempt to present images of primates in a message of tolerance.
The soccer league Serie A had launched an anti-racism campaign with three paintings of apes, commissioned to Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto, and the paintings were installed at the entrance of the league’s main hall in Milan.
“With this trio of paintings I would like to show that we are all the same race,” Fugazzotto said at the campaign’s launch event, according to online reports. The trio of paintings, he added, represents a blue-eyed “Western monkey, an Asian monkey and a black monkey.”
“I use monkeys as a metaphor for human beings because the colour of our skin is not important,” the artist was quoted as saying.
Serie A’s CEO Luigi De Siervo explained, “Simone created these works some months ago. We want to fight any form of prejudice, and we know racism is an endemic and complex problem.”
But the reactions kept coming in on social media.
“Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless,” tweeted Fare, a group that fights discrimination in Italian soccer. “In a country in which the authorities fail to deal with racism week after week Serie A have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke,” it said.
“These creations are an outrage, they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanization of people of African heritage,” the group added.
Kick It Out, another Italian anti-discrimination group, called the artwork “completely inappropriate”, saying it “undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.”
Among other critics were prominent soccer teams as well. “We strongly disagree with the use of monkeys as images in the fight against racism and were surprised by the total lack of consultation,” tweeted the AC Milan team.
The AS Roma team tweeted, “We understand that the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it.”
Earlier in September, a prominent TV personality was fired for saying on air that the only way to stop Romelu Lukaku, a Belgian forward for the team Inter Milan, was to give him “10 bananas to eat.”
An Italian newspaper was widely criticised after printing the headline 'Black Friday' with a photo of Lukaku and the English defender Chris Smalling, of Roma.