Racism at Italian Soccer Matches

ByABC News
July 1, 2001, 6:47 PM

July 1 -- In many European countries, soccer stadiums have become theaters of hatred; platforms from which neo-Nazis and racists can peddle their ideology.

In an Italian soccer stadium, a game turns ugly when a white player calls his opponent "a black monkey."

Some of the fans are notorious. You can hear them boo or grunt when the other team's black players touch the ball. At one match, fans waved a banner that said their opponent's Jewish fans belonged in Auschwitz.

"Some of the fans have always had this reputation," said a Frenchman who plays in Italy.

But the problem is growing day by day.

There are Italian fans who racially taunt their own team's players. When one team brought in a black substitute, its fans chanted, "We don't want the Negro."

It's not just Italy. In many European countries, soccer stadiums have become theaters of hatred, platforms from which neo-Nazis and racists peddly their ideology.

When the French won the World Cup, one politician branded the team "unworthy" of France because so many of the players were non-Whites.

There was a shocking episode in Poland this year. Fans pelted a Nigerian player with bananas and then laughed at him. There have been incidents across Europe in countries that, like Italy, are unaccustomed to immigrants from other parts of the world.

"This kind of immigration and having multi-racial players is new to us," said an Italian league official.

After years of pretending racism wasn't a serious issue, the Italian league is finally making teams pay for their fans behavior. They get fined or forced to play home games on the road. But the police are still afraid or unwilling to go into the worst sections of the stadiums to make arrests.

"As these racist and anti-Semitic chants become tolerated at football grounds, it becomes more tolerated in the rest of society to say racist and anti-Semitic things," said Simon Kuper, author of Football Against the Enemy. "And that creates a nasty atmosphere."