A section of Inter Milan ultras have defended the Cagliari fans who racially abused Romelu Lukaku when the two sides met at the Sardegna Arena on Sunday.
Monkey chants could be heard as Lukaku stepped up to take a penalty, which he scored to give Inter a 2-1 victory. On Monday, the Belgium international called on his fellow players to show unity in the fight against racism.
However, Inter’s Curva Nord — the club’s primary ultra organisation — have released a statement in which they denied Italy is a racist country and defended the right of fans to demonstrate that kind of abuse in the context of a football match.
The intro in the group’s Facebook post reads: “Open letter to Romelu Lukaku. Italians are not racist.
“After the latest theatre show surrounding ultras’ apparent racism by those who want to pick up the easy popularity points which are borne out of ignorance, Milan’s Curva Nord has once again decided to repeat the difference between real racism and the “instrumented” version which do not concern the ultras — as all the fake moralists out there love to make out in order to create needless panic and freely condemn our world…”
The letter then begins: “Hi Romelu. We are writing you on behalf of Curva Nord, yes the guys who welcomed you at your arrival in Milan.
“We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist. You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem. We understand that it could have seemed racist to you but it is not like that.
“In Italy we use some ‘ways’ only to ‘help our teams’ and to try to make our opponents nervous, not for racism but to mess them up. We are a multiethnic fans organisation and we have always welcomed players from everywhere. However, we have always used that ‘way’ with other teams’ players in the past and we probably will in the future.”
However, the Fare Network responded to this statement and the Lukaku situation as a whole with a much different tone later on Wednesday.
The group, whose purpose is to fight inequality in European football, issued a statement calling for strong action to be taken against anyone involved in the incident.
The statement read: “We have been appalled to see yet another incident of racism in Italy in the form of abuse aimed at Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku at the Cagliari v Inter Milan Serie A game.
“The abuse directed at Lukaku is one in a long list of incidents in Italian football over the past year and highlights the repeated failure to protect minority players and to tackle what is a systemic issue in Italian football.
“Sundays events have followed a familiar pattern in Italy in which players are abused, the referee fails to protect them and the authorities take insufficient action.
“The response from Cagliari, the Italian FA and Inter Milan ultras has been to deny its significance and take ineffective action.
“Videos circulating on social media show that monkey chants are clearly audible. The Italian FA and Serie A have this footage, it is clear evidence and the basis on which to take action that sends a strong message.
“We believe that dealing with racism should be a priority for the the Italian FA. A plan of action monitored by international governing bodies, UEFA and FIFA is needed. If such a plan is not developed they should face special measures and ultimately suspension.”
In December 2018, Inter were hit with a two-match stadium closure for aiming monkey chants at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, and, upon being allowed back, the Curva Nord criticised the club for failing to defend supporters in the wake of the incident.
Inter Milan declined to comment when contacted by ESPN FC.