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 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 is 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.
“We are not racist and so are not the Cagliari fans. You have to understand that in all Italian stadiums people cheer for their teams but at the same time they use to cheer against the opponents not for racism but to “help” their own team.
“Please consider this attitude of Italian fans as a form of respect for the fact they are afraid of you for the goals you might score against their teams and not because they hate you or they are racist. True racism is a completely different story and all Italian football fans know it very well.
“When you declare that racism is a problem to be fought in Italy you just help the repression against all football fans including us and you contribute to create a problem that is not really there, not in the way that is perceived in other countries.
“We are very sensitive and inclusive with all people. We guarantee you that in our organisation there are many fans of different races or fans coming from other parts of Italy that also use this ways to provocate their opponents even when the have the same races or are coming from the same areas.
“Please help us to clarify what racism really is and that Italian fans are not racist. The fight to REAL racism has to begin in schools not in the stadiums, fans are just fans and they behave in different ways when inside the stadium as opposed to when they are in real life.
“I guarantee you that what they do or say to an opponent player of another race is not what they would ever say to someone they would meet in real life. Italian fans may not be perfect and we can understand your frustration with this expressions but they are definitely not meant to be racist.
“Once again… Welcome Romelu.”
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.