On Sunday, September 22nd, the game against Atalanta was stopped for 3 minutes in the first half after Atalanta fans racially accosted Fiorentina player Dalbert. Credit must be given to referee Daniele Orsato, who immediately acted once Dalbert alerted him. Because of that action, an announcement was made over the stadium’s loudspeaker that the game would be stopped if racist chants continued. Much to viewers’ dismay, that very reasonable announcement was immediately met with the jeers and boos of the Atalanta fans in a shameful display of sportsmanship.
Earlier this week, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso, spoke openly with ViolaNation about this issue plaguing Serie A. “This message has to be stated and restated that these types of chants are unacceptable. I expected something stronger after what happened inside the stadium from those responsible at the Atalanta club, the ownership and coaching staff. The strongest comments came from the Mayor of Parma [the game was being played in Parma because Atalanta’s stadium in Bergamo is being renovated]. I appreciated that and rightly so. I don’t accept that in Florence and I hope they don’t accept that in Bergamo.”
This follows on a strong statement Commisso issued after an incident that took place during the Curva Fiesole party a few weeks ago where he said, “I can’t accept words of hate, insults against opponents from our fans. I grew up in the land of transparency and opportunities. I’m a witness and an example of the fact that those who work hard get results. Sporting value is the first moral value. Discrimination, verbal abuse and racist chants aren’t part of my vocabulary.”
He went on to say, “I also don’t want to hear those [chants] against the people from Southern Italy anymore. I’m from Calabria, Joe Barone is Sicilian, Montella is from Naples. Attacking southerners is attacking us. To the leaders of the Fiesole [ultras group], I say weed out the few who make those chants.”
He emphasized these points by showing me a picture of his college team at Columbia from 50 years ago. “Look at my team here. We were a diverse group made up of players from 16 different nations representing 5 continents. This is my team. This is the type of inclusion in which I believe.”
Tom Larsen, SVP of Government and Public Relations at Mediacom added, “Rocco just helped fund a new field at Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx. It was an important opportunity for him to support one of New York City’s most culturally and racially diverse communities.”
After the game, Atalanta coach, Gian Piero Gasperini played down the events in the stands, and deflected the issue at hand: “No one has heard these choirs, and if some fool has said anything, it’s different. It’s a serious matter, but you know how many individual insults, even very serious ones, are heard in the stadiums. Including those arriving from the Florence grandstand. We must condemn racism, but we cannot go and count one by one, all those who insult.”
It is not just unfortunate that Gasperini missed an opportunity to lead by example, it’s abhorrent. When leadership is part of the problem, progress is hard to achieve.
A day later, Atalanta released this official statement: “Regarding the racist comments that took place during the Atalanta-Fiorentina match, the Company dissociates itself from any form of discrimination may have occurred. Atalanta, with its public and fans, is and will always be the spokesman of values of solidarity and equality. The stupidity of a few must be fought together and we believe that it has neither color nor mesh. It should be isolated.”
That is better, but it still isn’t this. Parma Mayor Federico Pizzarotti released these strong and impassioned words: “Parma welcomes you with kindness, you are guests in the house of others, but instead of cheering with respect, you dirty the city with your racist choirs. Shame. Ours is a civilized city, we Parmesans have chased racism out of life outside the door. No one can afford to let it in the window. I hope these uncivilized ones will be identified and hunted forever in Italian stadiums.”
Let us leave you with this video. On Monday, Megan Rapinoe gave a powerful and poignant speech after receiving the FIFA Best Women’s Player Award. We should all learn from her, from the Mayor of Parma and our great President, Rocco Commisso. No one should accept these acts anymore. No one should stand by idly.
Forza Viola! Forza l’umanità!