Reports have been filtering in that Inter fans racially abused Adebayor and Naughton throughout the match with Tottenham yesterday, with someone in the stands also holding up an inflatable banana as they passed by. Adebayor was allegedly too upset by the treatment to stick around for a scheduled post-match interview, and Andre Villas-Boas has called for punishments.
For. Fuck’s. Sake.
I genuinely don’t know what to say about this crap anymore, except to strongly recommend that the people responsible for these incidents be banned from the stadium for life. Zero tolerance. Get caught on camera with an inflatable banana? Find a new club to support. Does that sound too harsh? Maybe it is. But when you consider the toxic effects this kind of behavior is starting to have on the club and the league in general, draconian measures start to seem more and more necessary.
This kind of nonsense is equally repugnant regardless of which team is doing it and what game it is, but it infuriates me to an almost unbearable degree when it’s this club, and when in it’s in a match like yesterday’s.
Based on what happened on the pitch, yesterday’s match was second only to the Juve victory in terms of emotional catharsis. It was the type of heart-in-mouth comeback that reminds you why you bother to follow such a schizophrenic club, and makes you feel an immense pride to be associated with the distaff players and coaches and fans who make up the organization. And then you learn that this kind of garbage was happening all the while, and you feel betrayed for feeling so good about everything before.
During this weekend’s match, if a fan were to run down onto the pitch from the curva nord during a corner, disrupting play and causing us to lose a scoring chance, no one would hesitate in kicking him out and banning him from the stadium. The reason? Because he ruined the goddamn match, and anyone who ruins a match for everyone else has forfeited his privileges to be there. While they didn’t physically interfere with the play on the pitch yesterday, the fans who rained down racist chants on Tottenham also ruined that match in a way, diverting attention from the incredible heart Inter displayed to the idiocy of the fans present, and all while the eyes of the rest of Europe – especially the ever-superior, tongue-clicking Brits – were focused right on them.
In addition to being morally revolting and almost certainly resulting in large fines, this sort of behavior hurts the club in ways that aren’t as easily quantifiable. For one, who’s to say that the next-generation’s Samuel Eto’o coming out of Africa won’t get an offer from Inter and think, “wait, isn’t Serie A the racist douchebag league? Yeah, let me get back to you on that…” And what about the young guy or girl who went to their first Inter match yesterday on a whim, who now won’t come back because they associate Inter with racist idiocy? How many potential fans* are turned off from the get-go by this sort of thing?
And even more importantly, financial reality these days pretty much mandates that the big clubs, in order to remain big clubs, need to attract overseas fans. Man U, Chelsea, Barca and Bayern have been particularly aggressive in pursuing international marketing, and they’re all beginning to reap the benefits. Inter obviously wants a piece of this pie too, which is why we’ve been playing friendlies in Indonesia, China, the Middle East and the U.S. over the past few years. So tell me this: when your club’s name keeps popping up in association with embarrassing bigotry, what does that do to a team’s international reputation? And it doesn’t just affect Inter here – Lazio and Juve and Chievo and Hellas Verona and Cagliari are all heavily implicated in this too. Serie A has already lost a CL spot and a number of its most marketable stars in recent years, and when you add on a culture of irreducible racism** that somehow seems to be getting worse, why the hell would any reasonable person from Jakarta or Chicago choose to watch Italian football instead of the more genteel, progressive versions found in England, Germany or Spain? If you allow the rest of the world to think of you as an ugly, stupid, regressive backwater, pretty soon you’ll become one.
I believe Moratti and Agnelli and Lotito when they say that racism shouldn’t be tolerated. I believe them when they say they know it’s a problem. I just don’t think they have any idea just how huge a problem it’s going to become if they don’t take real action, real soon.
* When I was first starting to get seriously into Serie A, Cragnotti’s Lazio were the most exciting, in-form, high-flying team in the league, yet I didn’t want to go anywhere near them thanks to their fans’ horrible fascistic reputation. I knew that they were a minority in the overall fanbase, objectively speaking, but by virtue of the club tolerating their presence for so long, I’d just started to psychologically paint all laziali with the same brush. I was a potential fan, but they’d already lost me. It disturbs me immensely to imagine that, were I born 13 years later, I might be averse to becoming an Inter fan for the same reasons.
** See what I did there?