This has been a weird season for Viola Nation on Twitter. We got our first contact with a current Fiorentina player—or at least with his official account—when Sebastian Cristoforo DMed us to inform us that no, he was not angling for a move away to Spain, as we’d reported after reading a host of rumors on the subject. The whole thing rattled me pretty well and definitely reinforced the very obvious fact that footballers are actual human beings, with all the feelings and foibles of our species. It can be easy to forget that sometimes when your only relationship with them is entirely voyeuristic, based on watching them anonymously and forming conclusions from the carefully curated 1% of their lives that we actually witness.
This is all a prelude to say that, for the second time in a few months, we’ve gotten a message from a Viola player’s verified Twitter account. This time, it was Germán Pezzella, and he struck a very different tone from Cristoforo. The captain simply wanted us to know that he’s sorry for wearing the Halloween costume that he did and will work to be better in the future. Here’s exactly what he wrote to us.
There are four points I’d like to discuss here. The first is, obviously, OH MY GOD THE CAPTAIN OF FIORENTINA JUST SENT THIS WEBSITE A MESSAGE AND HE KNOWS WHO WE ARE AND THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST MINDBENDING THINGS THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME. That’s a big deal for a dude who does most of his writing for this site while at his real job or while sitting pantsless on his couch in his off time.
The second is that this looks like it’s actually from Germán Pezzella himself, rather than an agent or a hastily-retained PR expert. Pezzella’s from Argentina and has lived in Italy for the past few years, so the language itself certainly looks like someone whose grasp of English is imperfect. If this were a professional piece of work crafted by somebody who’d been paid to smooth things over, I think it’d probably be more fluent than anything you’ll find on this website. To me, that indicates that Pezzella is, at the very least, taking the personal responsibility to try and apologize for his mistake rather than outsourcing it to representatives, and that’s a good thing in an apology.
Third, it seems reasonably heartfelt. As Nolan KB, our resident expert on all things Argentine, explained in the comments, this seems more like a case of simply not understanding exactly what that costume meant due to a lack of exposure to the necessary concepts more than it is a malicious act. Plenty of other sources—e.g. A Season with Verona (thanks Tomas500)—reinforce this idea: footballers aren’t always the most conscious of the world around them because their job requires such focus on a singular thing, often to the exclusion of everything else. Going back to Nolan KB, “even if he’s forced to adjust his behavior solely to save his own ass, it’s still a learning process.” While that’s certainly not the desired end result, it shows that Pezzella at least has the capacity to feel embarrassed about this, which is the baseline of good and right.
Fourth, there’s nothing in here about what he’s going to do next or what the club is doing to address this. Maybe that’s because Pezzella and the powers that be are just going to ignore this from here on out so long as there isn’t a repeat incident, which would be both disappointing but not surprising. As many of you said in the comments of the article we posted on this, some sort of disciplinary action from Fiorentina would be great, as it’d send a message and reestablish some sort of moral standing. Similarly, a statement from Pezzella himself explaining what he’s going to do to educate himself and others to ensure this sort of thing never happens on his watch again would be a wonderful step, but probably not one we’ll see taken. That would have been the final piece, for me, to forgive him completely, as it would demonstrate a commitment to improving himself that’s otherwise not explicit here.
So, that’s where we’re at. It’ll be interesting to see what all the parties involved do next. The club hasn’t yet said anything on the record, although I imagine that various authority figures have held some pretty intense discussions with the captain. The man himself hasn’t released any other official statements so far as we know; we’re hoping it’s because he’s doing some research on what he ought to do next and doesn’t want to rush into anything without a lot of thought.
At minimum, though, Pezzella has learned never repeat this sort of racist action because of the outcry raised by sensible folks like yall. Whether we see him go above and beyond remains a mystery, but it’s a reminder both of how we all need to be aware of ourselves and our actions, and of how important it is to raise our voices to make this the club that we want it to be. Viola Nation, despite our, uh, brushes with greatness, is still a speck in a sea of Fiorentina fans; to really affect positive change, we need to make sure we make ourselves heard not just here, where pretty much everyone is in agreement about this, but also inte wider Viola ecosystem.