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Fiorentina condemn racist abuse, it’s time for all of us to do the same

After the shameful scenes at last night’s game with Napoli, silence is no longer an option

Udinese Calcio v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

The emotions I was left with after last night’s game with Napoli were mainly anger and shame. This had nothing, unfortunately, to do with the result or how Fiorentina performed. Losing against the league leaders, and a team on maximum points, is certainly no disgrace, and how we play under Vincenzo Italiano is so much better than anything we’ve had to endure over the last few seasons.

What happened during and after the game, with Fiorentina fans racially abusing Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Victor Osimhen and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, is something we as Viola supporters need to condemn and not ignore.

Here is the official statement from ACF Fiorentina this morning:

“Fiorentina condemns the incidents of racism that took place during the match against Napoli on Sunday in the strongest terms.

General Manager Joe Barone personally apologised to Napoli and the players who were subjected to these shameful and intolerable chants after the match, on behalf of the club.

Fiorentina has already provided the police with all video footage and other resources in order to ensure that the individuals responsible for the despicable chants are identified.

Once the relevant authorities have identified those responsible, Fiorentina will ban them from the stadium and hopes that all other clubs do the same, in addition to ensuring that all rules are applied consistently for all.

We were surprised that – on occasions such as Atalanta v Fiorentina – we did not see the same quick action and attention in the wake of equally shameful events targeting a Fiorentina player.

President Commisso and all at ACF Fiorentina have long been engaged in the fight against racism and all forms of discrimination and are disappointed that the ignorance and stupidity of a small group have brought shame not just to the club but to the city of Florence, for whom multiculturalism and integration are core values.”

Our club is to be commended for speaking out so soon on what happened, especially when we have seen so many others refuse to acknowledge what happens with their own fans. It certainly looks like they are doing everything within their power to identify those responsible, and in making sure they will be punished accordingly.

The FIGC has also confirmed that it has opened an investigation into the incidents. They have already spoken to Koulibaly, along with its own inspectors who were present last night. We now await to see what action is actually taken, by both the club and the relevant authorities.

It’s not good enough anymore to say that it’s just a few people, that they don’t represent Fiorentina or Florence. This need to protect our reputation often appears to be stronger than the need to call out what actually happens. Listening to the local radio in the city this morning after the game, it’s clear that the priority seems to be making sure that all fans are not tarred with the one brush. They were at pains to point out that it was just one or two individuals, and that there isn’t a need to focus too much on the incident.

This, in my opinion, is completely the wrong approach, and it has been this attitude which has allowed incidents like these to continue and to go unpunished in Italian football for so long. How many racial abuse situations do we need to witness before something serious is actually done, by both the authorities and the clubs involved? And by us as fans, because it’s no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye, to simply say that we’re not all like that.

People who were at the game last night, and people that were with the racist scum involved, have a duty to do something. These people feel they can get away with it, simply because they can, nobody around them will call them out, nobody will report them. As part of a crowd, they feel courageous, able to vent their hatred and extreme views.

Kalidou Koulibaly challenged those who abused him last night to come and say it to his face, but as we all know, these people are cowards of the highest order, unable to express themselves directly. It’s very easy, as part of a large crowd, to feel both invisible and invincible. Those in the crowd who witness this behaviour but remain impassive, allow this to happen. Koulibaly was racially abused after the game, when most of those in the Curva Fiesole had already left the stadium. This, I hope, should make it even easier to identify those responsible.

While most of Italy rejoiced and celebrated in the national side’s triumph at the Euro’s this summer, that togetherness has already been forgotten as people go back to supporting their clubs. Unfortunately, in Italy, this leads to division, and hatred, and this seems to be accepted by the majority as just a part of football.

‘Campanalismo’, or parochialism, is a sentiment felt stronger in Italy than in a lot of other countries. It’s no surprise that this is reflected in football, which after all can be seen as a reflection of society at large. There is a great division in the peninsula between north and south, but it goes much deeper than this. Florence is certainly not immune to this, and it has long been reflected in the attitude to fans from other clubs, and especially those from further south in the country.

Some will excuse the behaviour of those fans last night, as a reflection of their hatred for Napoli more than actual racism. We’ve heard this so many times before, and from those who are in charge of our football association and our clubs. Alibis like this can no longer be accepted or tolerated. The abuse shouted by these fans was racism pure and simple, and related to the colour of a person’s skin and not the colour of their jersey.

Rivalry in football can be a healthy part of the sport, it may in fact, be what makes it the greatest sport in the world. When that rivalry spills over into hatred however, and it can be a very fine line, that is when we have a problem, and that is when we need to react, and by we, I mean all of us. No longer can we leave it to somebody else to deal with, it’s pointless to say that the authorities aren’t resolving this issue if we ourselves stand idly by.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand the hatred, which is so often involved in football, and seems to be a part of being a football fan and supporter for many. I am a Fiorentina fan, but to be a fan of a club, you first and foremost need to be a football fan. There will always be clubs we love to win against more than others, and for Viola followers that would be Juventus.

For some, this hatred is so all consuming that they cannot even be happy to see a Juventus player enjoying success with the Italian national side. I absolutely loved Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci’s performances at the Euro’s this summer, and was even happy to see Federico Chiesa have such a major contribution to the team’s success.

As I said, I am a football fan, and a Fiorentina fan, and would definitely consider myself an Italian football fan. Being a lover of all things calcio, does not however, mean defending it at all costs. When there is something wrong within the game, then we need to make sure that it’s spoken about and not brushed under the carpet in an attempt to attract a bigger audience. It will also achieve nothing by simply pointing out that these shameful scenes also occur outside of Italy. While that is certainly true, for anything to change at an international level, the problem first needs to be tackled at the roots.

Now living in Kraków, Poland, back in August I heard that SSC Napoli would be coming to town and I made sure I got my ticket early. I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to see a Serie A side live in action. It had been so long since I’d been at a stadium, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Napoli were of course without some of their main stars, with Lorenzo Insigne and Giovanni Di Lorenzo having just returned after their Euro adventure.

The main disappointment for me though. was that Victor Osimhen was a late withdrawal due to injury. I had been looking forward to seeing such an exciting player in the flesh, but still went along, happy to see what Luciano Spalletti managed to do with his Napoli team. I also had the privilege of seeing up close what a superb defender Koulibaly is.

I spoke to Joseph Fischetti who hosts the Forza Napoli Calcio Podcast, after the game. This is something that those who run, and those who write for this website, have always been proud of; the ability to see beyond our club’s colours, and speak to those who support our rivals, make connections, collaborate, and this is one of the reasons why we love football, its ability to bring so many different people together.

The internet has long been a place where people feel free to indulge in the abuse, often anonymous, of others, and in recent times this has reached horribly high levels in football. Here at Viola Nation, we will continue to speak out on events like this, no matter what some fans of the club may think.

After a year and a half without fans at the stadium, some may have hoped that the time away would have seen a reflection on the part of supporters as to what it means to attend a game. Some may have expected to see a new attitude, that people would be so happy to return to the curve and the stands that they would put aside their hatred and focus on supporting their team instead. Naive wishes as it now turns out, and even at this early stage of the season we have had more than enough instances of racism and abuse to make it clear that something needs to be done at a higher level.

The time has come for action, and not meaningless campaigns and slogans which have done absolutely nothing to solve the problem, however well meaning they may be. For those of you who see the reaction to last night’s disgusting scenes as an attack on Florence and Fiorentina, it’s time to wake up. We can no longer hide behind the excuse that it’s just a tiny minority, that the majority of fans are not like that.

For as long as the abuse of players and other fans is ignored by that majority, then they too are complicit. Turning a blind eye is no longer an option, seeing this as a chance to defend your city and fans is not the right thing to do. There are those who say we should just ignore them, that calling attention to them is exactly what they want. This type of action has been ignored for far too long, and where has it taken us? To an even worse place, so if that is how you choose to react, it means you have no wish for things to ever improve.

Burying our heads in the sand will only serve to increase the level of abuse, will make those who are guilty believe that there are plenty of people out there who agree with what goes on in their sick minds and what comes out of their disgusting mouths.

As the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”