Italian league vows to be thorough to eradicate racism

In this Nov. 9, 2019 file photo, Brescia's Mario Balotelli, center, walks on the pitch during the Serie A soccer match between Brescia and Torino at the Mario Rigamonti Stadium in Brescia, Italy. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2019

Italian league vows to be thorough to eradicate racism

  • The season has been marred by constant episodes of racist chants and discriminatory behavior

MILAN: The Italian league has vowed to go “stadium by stadium” in its bid to eradicate racism from soccer in the country.
The season has been marred by constant episodes of racist chants and discriminatory behavior but Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo promised that the governing body is working on “dozens of initiatives.”
“Too little has been done before, almost nothing, now we’re facing it,” De Siervo said at a news conference at the Lega Serie A headquarters on Tuesday. “We need time to resolve it though. Football has to be an example.
“We’ll go stadium by stadium, sector by sector and identify these people to keep them out of there.”
Racist chants have recently been aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Balotelli. All the players targeted — except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian — are black.
“We’re working with what we have,” De Siervo said. “The aim is to go and take them one by one and ban them from the stadiums but to make sure that 10, 20, 30 people can’t ruin the image of a city, of a country.
“There are very real initiatives but I can’t tell you because we’re analyzing a lot of things ... we need to improve the regulations, lobby the government, create the conditions so we can have better instruments for the future. We also need to have campaigns with schools, in the media, campaigns that can give a direct and clear message.”
The one thing De Siervo does not want to see, however, is suspending matches for racist incidents.
“Personally, I’m against interrupting a game because it damages a whole system,” he said. “I understand the guys that are the target of this horrible thing ... but the aim is to intervene after the match, immediately, con severe sanctions.”
The press conference was hastily called after Italian media published an audio recording of De Siervo saying he had given the go-ahead for turning off microphones pointed at fans in stadiums to avoid television viewers hearing racist chants.
The audio was recorded on a mobile phone at a board meeting on Sept. 23 and leaked to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
De Siervo defended his comments, saying he was trying “to avoid transforming certain people into heroes” and prevent “the risk of imitation.”
“Taking the microphone away from violent people is a well-known act,” he added. “We’re not blocking anything by this, the police, the referee and officials from the Italian Federation and the league have the duty to analyze all that ... but television does something else, it offers a spectacle.”
However, the Italian soccer federation has reportedly opened an investigation into De Siervo’s comments.

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.