Controversy Boils Over Italian Soccer League’s Anti-Racism Campaign Featuring Apes

A campaign launched this week to fight racism against Black players in soccer stadiums in Italy royally backfired as it presented controversial images of primates to advance its message of tolerance.

On Monday, December 16, the elite soccer league Serie A launched an anti-racism campaign with three paintings of apes commissioned from the Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto. 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 on Monday. 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 color of our skin is not important,” the artist explained.

“Simone created these works some months ago,” Serie A’s CEO Luigi De Siervo, added. “We want to fight any form of prejudice and we know racism is an endemic and complex problem.”

But the backlash was quick to follow.

“Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless,” tweeted Fare, an organization 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.”

“These creations are an outrage, they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanization of people of African heritage,” the group went on to say.

Kick It Out, another Italian anti-discrimination group, called the artwork “completely inappropriate” and said that it “undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.”

Among the critics were also prominent soccer teams in the country. “We strongly disagree with the use of monkeys as images in the fight against racism and were surprised by the total lack of consultation,” the AC Milan team tweeted.

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.”

Racism against Black soccer players in Italy is not limited to racial slurs at stadiums. A leading TV pundit was fired in September for saying on the air that the only way to stop Romelu Lukaku, a Belgian forward who plays for the team Inter Milan, was to give him “10 bananas to eat.”

The Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport was widely criticized after printing the headline “Black Friday” with a cover photo of Lukaku and the English defender Chris Smalling, who plays for Roma. “You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue,” Lukaku said in response to the headline.

In an email interview with Hyperallergic, Fugazzotto explained that primates have been his main subject matter since 2013.

“I’m surprised by the people’s reaction to this campaign,” he wrote. “The project was presented seven months ago during the Italian cup finals on TV and in leading sports outlets and nothing (literally nothing) happened.”

“The message for me was clear: if we cannot stop stupid fans from screaming ‘monkey’ at black people, I will try to reverse the concept by saying that everyone is an ape,” the artist explained.

Fugazzotto said that he has been facing an avalanche of personal attacks against him on social media and on his website, but that he has also received some messages of support.

“They say I’m racist, meh,” he wrote. “I don’t feel the project is insensitive. It’s a new way of saying an old and important concept, that everyone is the same.”

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LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Up until Jornada 10, LaLiga seemed to be going a different way in comparison to the previous few seasons. The dominance of Real Madrid, Barcelona for the top spot had been questioned and the gap at the top was little. Newly-promoted and smaller of the Andalusian teams in Granada occupied the top spot. They were leading the Primera Division for the first time in 46 years! As a football fan, you felt giddy, you hoped for some sort of fairytale to happen — much like the Leicester City of Premier League or Deportivo La Coruña in 2000.

But a week later, the duo scored five goals each against Leganes and Real Valladolid to make it one-two battle once again.

 LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw by Real Sociedad on the weekend. They come into the Clasico as league leaders. AP

You win, I win. You draw, I draw. That has been the theme to things ever since. When Barcelona slipped at Levante (losing 3-1), Real Madrid were held to a stalemate by Betis. Four wins later for both, Barca were once again the first to drop points. Real Sociedad denied Barca all three points at Anoeta while Real Madrid needed a 95th-minute goal from Karim Benzema to get something from Mestalla.

Now we come to the big one. It was scheduled for 26 October but was postponed due to protests in Barcelona following sentences handed out to political leaders as part of the independence referendum. La Liga wished it to be played on 4 December but the clubs' agreed date, and that ratified by Spanish FA, of 18 December, stuck.

16 matches played, 35 points apiece but Barcelona sit top thanks to a better goal difference — which at the end of the season counts for nothing. In Spain, the head-to-head is the tiebreaker if two teams finish on points. Where Barca have scored 43 goals, Real have tallied 33. At the back, Barca have let in 20 goals while Madrid have conceded 12. This stat highlights the major strengths and concerns for both teams.

Barcelona have a strong forward line and can get goals aplenty with Lionel Messi on 12, Luis Suarez on 9 and Antoine Griezmann on 6. Real Madrid have put their faith squarely in Benzema to get goals. He has 12 with defender Sergio Ramos the next best at 3.

In defence, Barcelona have looked shoddy throughout the season and have lacked the solidity that is needed. For the fixture tonight, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet make up the centre back pairing with Sergi Roberto likely to occupy the right side. Jordi Alba, fit once again, is expected to come in at left-back and provide the attacking threat with his galloping runs and off the ball movement provide.

Real Madrid players celebrate the goal of their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, December 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid salvaged a point at Mestalla courtesy a Karim Benzema goal in stoppage time. AP

For Real, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane will take shape at centre back, Dani Carvajal at right-back. The left-back slot remains up for grabs with Marcelo injured. Zinedine Zidane could bring in Ferland Mendy who is once again available following suspension, or stick to Nacho Fernandez. Mendy would be a smarter guess considering his ability to whip in neat crosses and solid defensive skills.

Midfield dictates play, it dictates flow from back to forward and most importantly, the tempo of the game. The game will be won or lost by the team which does well in the midfield. Barcelona are expected to have three in the middle: Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Messi and Suarez can drop in deep if the situation demands, leaving Griezmann for the counter-attacking moves which are a strong possibility with this Real Madrid side, which can be caught out between the lines.

Another option is to have Griezmann hug the touchline with Suarez becoming the goal-scoring threat in the middle and Messi playing as the number 10.

Alba, if he plays, also provides an option to run in on the wings with Messi's clinical through balls or chips to keep Carvajal busy. Alba then has what it takes to provide neatly struck cutbacks for the attackers to slot home.

Real Madrid's Casemiro (in white) squares off with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Source: LaLiga

Casemiro stayed on the bench against Valencia but is expected to marshal the midfield and defence at Camp Nou. Source: LaLiga

Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Federico Valverde and Casemiro could all come in and form the playing XI with either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 style helped by the attacking options in Benzema and Rodrygo. Modric and Kroos had started the season, not in the fittest of shapes or with the sharpest of football on the pitch but as things have progressed, they've improved. This has shown in how Real have played their football as well. What is important is to keep that level high in order to put the pressure on Barcelona. At Valencia, Real started well, moved the ball around quickly but fizzled as it drew forward.

Other formations could be a 4-1-3-2 with Modric, Kroos and Valverde in midfield, Casemiro the linkup between defence and midfield with Rodrygo and Benzema upfront. It appears unlikely that Zidane would start with Vinicius Jr. or Gareth Bale. When asked about the Welshman (again) in the buildup to the fixture, Zidane said he was someone who was training well and "an important player" without dwelling on his chances of getting a second start since early October.

If Zidane were to be bolder, he could play a 4-1-2-3 with Casemiro doing the dirty, mopping up work behind Kroos and Modric/Valverde with Isco, Benzema and Rodrygo starting.

For all the permutations and combinations, Casemiro being a part of the playing XI is a certainty and his role extremely important — a fact established further by the Brazilian getting to warm the bench at Valencia in order to not get suspended for the Clasico.

There are quite a few options for both Zidane and Ernesto Valverde to explore for the first Clasico of the season. If things hold up with how LaLiga has turned out this season, it could matter a whole lot by Jornada 38!

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UEFA President criticises VAR but insists technology is here to stay

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has criticised the negative impact of the video assistant referee (VAR) system on football but insisted the European governing body would not ditch the use of the technology.

Speaking following the UEFA Executive Committee's latest meeting in Nyon, Čeferin suggested VAR was changing the game too much and admitted a number of improvements needed to be made with the system.

VAR's introduction into the sport has been blighted by issues at international and domestic level, including at last year's FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Čeferin said, however, that VAR would "stay" in the game.

The Executive Committee approved its use in qualifying playoffs for the European Championship next year and the continental qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Russia, subject to approval from FIFA.

"The game is changing and we are afraid that it is changing too much," Ceferin said.

"Football needs uncertainty because the players make mistakes and the referees on the pitch have to take responsibility, not some people hidden in a van or a building 500 kilometres from the venue.

"I can live with the fact that referees are human beings who make mistakes but now when technology makes a mistake, that is a problem.

"We have to make it clearer, we have to make it faster, we have to make it less invasive - but it will stay."

VAR has caused numerous controversies since it was introduced ©Getty Images
VAR has caused numerous controversies since it was introduced ©Getty Images

UEFA's Executive Committee also approved a a new-look playoff system as part of its qualification process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The 55 teams will be split into 10 groups, with the top team in each securing a spot at the tournament, where UEFA has 13 places.

The 10 runners-up will join the two teams from the 2020-2021 Nations League to form the playoffs.

Teams will be divided into three paths, with a semi-final and a final in each to determine the final three European qualifiers.

The Executive Committee confirmed the match schedule for the Women's European Championship in 2021 in England, due to conclude with the final at Wembley Stadium in London.

The venue for the opening match has not yet been confirmed.

Changes to the Women's Champions League from the 2021-2022 season were also given the green light during today's meeting.

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Brazil Crowned After Defeating Peru in Copa America Final

The match was highly anticipated as the Brazilian national team had strolled through the first stages scoring 13 goals and finally only receiving one against by Peru in the final.

Brazil won in home soil after 12 years of not lifting the Copa America trophy by beating Peru 3-1 in the final on Sunday at the legendary Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

The match was highly anticipated as the Brazilian national team had strolled through the first stages scoring 13 goals and finally only receiving one against by Peru in the final. While Peru, who had a rocky start, showed a high level of playing in the later stages to reach the final hoping to spoil Brazil.

Yet since the group stage, Brazil positioned themselves s the clear favorite, as they won two games against Bolivia and Peru and drew with Venezuela. The quarterfinals had them face Paraguay, defeating them in a penalty shoot-out.

The semifinal was a South American classic against their football rivals Argentina. The controversial game had the Brazilians winning a ticket to the final.

The final game began with a strong Peru defense as the Brazilian team had few spaces in the first quarter of an hour of the match. However, at minute 15, with a precision pass from Gabriel Jesus, the striker Everton marked the first goal of the game.

Peru’s top player Paolo Guerrero leveled the match with a penalty in the 44-minute as the first half was finishing. Nevertheless,  due to an error by the Peruvian side, Gabriel Jesus scored the second goal in additional time prior to half-time.

The second-half saw a charging Peruvian side that came very close to leveling the game, especially when the man of the match, Gabriel Jesus was sent off. Yet it wasn’t enough and in the final minutes of the game, as desperation set in, the Peruvian defense conceded a penalty, which Richarlison's clinched to secure the game.

This way the XLVI edition of the oldest international continental football competition has come to an end. The competition was not spared of controversy, as internationally renowned Lionel Messi accused the South American Confederation of Football (Conmebol) of corruption and using the video assistant referee (VAR) system of favor the host nation.

According to conservative Brazilian magazine Veja, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who presented the trophy and medals to the players, was booed at the end of the match by the public attending.

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FIFA Broadcasts Special Video 100 Days Before Russia-2018 World Cup

The 100-day countdown to the Russia-2018 world Cup started today with a special video broadcast by FIFA, in which legend players from the countries classified appear touching a ball.

Figures like the Argentine Diego Maradona, Brazilian Ronaldo, Uruguayan Diego Forlan and Colombian Carlos Valderrama excel among the Latin stars who play with their own Tesla, the ball that will roll on the Russian fields.

Likewise, other universal stars such as the Spanish Carles Puyol, the Englishman Wayne Rooney, the Danish Peter Schmeichel and the Japanese Hidetoshi Nakata combine to reach the final sequence, in which FIFA President Gianni Infantino exchanges several passes with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, until getting 100 contacts.

The governing body of world football cup does not specify the filming date of each segment, although press reports indicate that the last meeting between the two leaders took place on February 12.

Russia has planned numerous events throughout the country to start the countdown to the inaugural match between the hosts and Saudi Arabia on June 14.

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Pep Guardiola to leave Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has confirmed Pep Guardiola will be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti next summer when the Spaniard's three-year contract comes to an end. 

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Messi is the Best of the Last Decade, says Pelé

Brazilian ex-footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento ''Pelé'' said here that the Argentinean striker Lionel Messi is ''the best player'' of the last decade. However, the only triple football world champion would not go too much into the controversy, and also praised the Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo.

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