Corriere dello Sport's 'Black Friday' headline leaves Romelu Lukaku's agent 'ashamed'

orriere editor Ivan Zazzaroni says headline's intention was to celebrate the "magnificent wealth of diversity" in football

Corriere Dello Sport 0:21
Romelu Lukaku's agent says he is 'ashamed' by Corriere Dello Sport's headline

Romelu Lukaku's agent says he is "ashamed" by Corriere dello Sport's 'Black Friday' headline in Thursday's edition of the newspaper.

The Italian daily has been accused of fuelling racism with its front page, which the paper ran alongside pictures of Inter Milan striker Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling, who is on loan from Manchester United.

The paper carried their images as the two former United team-mates prepare to face each other in Friday's Serie A meeting between the two teams.

Lukaku's agent, Federico Pastorello, says authorities are not treating racism seriously after another high-profile incident involving his client and claimed it was a wider "cultural" issue affecting Italian society outside of football.

"Being Italian I'm really ashamed to read a title like that but I really don't want to talk about a single episode," Pastorello told Sky Sports News.

"At the end of the day the racist problem is a big problem. Unfortunately we are living in 1920. It's really a culture problem.

"Being an agent we are trying to protect our clients from this huge problem because it's not only a newspaper but it's a problem you can breathe in the stadium, in social media, on the street.

Foto LaPresse/Tocco Alessandro .01/09/2019 Cagliari(Italia) .Sport Calcio .Cagliari Calcio vs InterFC.Serie A TIM 2019/2020.Stadio "Sardegna Arena" .Nella foto:L'esultanza di Romelu Lukaku 9(Inter FC).Photo LaPresse/Alessandro Tocco.September 01, 2019 Cagliari (Italy).Sport Soccer.Cagliari Calcio vs  InterFC.League A TIM 2019/2020 ."Sardegna Arena" Stadium .In the picture:celebrates Romelu Lukaku 9(Inter FC)
Image: Lukaku looks towards Cagliari fans after receiving alleged racist abuse earlier this season

"I think it's a problem that is a culture problem. What I would like and wish for the future is institutions could take it more serious. There were some episodes in Champions League recently, also in Serie A games and the institution did not take so seriously the problem."

On the player's reaction to the headline, Pastorello added: "He is very sensitive on this problem. I like his attitude because he's facing it every time with strength and power.

"Not for him but the other players who are weaker than him and can't [impact on the issue].

"For sure he is not happy about that but he's strong enough to face it."

Corriere editor defends front page

Corriere dello Sport editor Ivan Zazzaroni subsequently posted a statement on his paper's website, claiming the writer's intention was to celebrate the "magnificent wealth of diversity" in football.

Zazzaroni wrote: "'Black Friday', for those who want to understand it and can understand it, was only praising diversity, taking pride in diversity, the magnificent wealth of diversity. If you don't understand it, it's because you can't do that.

"It's an innocent article, perfectly argued by [journalist] Roberto Perrone, that has been made poisonous by those who have poison inside them."

'Black Friday' headline condemned

Anti-discrimination Fare network tweeted a picture of the front page along with the message: "The media fuels racism every day."

Inter Milan reacted to the front page with a statement on social media saying, "Football is passion, culture and brotherhood.

"We are and always will be opposed to any form of discrimination."

Roma shared an image of the newspaper calling out the editorial decision to print it.

While AC Milan say they will not "stay silent on the issue" and see the headline as a sign of "casual ignorance on racism".

Brighton defender Leon Balogun also condemned the headline on social media, saying: "A recent rise in incidents of racism across Europe and you, as a renowned newspaper, still think there's nothing wrong with publishing this!? Disgraceful!"

Serie A has been plagued by racist incidents this season, with Lukaku himself and Brescia forward Mario Balotelli among those to make allegations of being racially abused by supporters during games.

Last week, all 20 clubs in Italy's top tier signed an open letter which called on "all those who love Italian football" to unite to try to eradicate its "serious problem with racism".

Above its headline, Corriere dello Sport ran a subhead which read: "Lukaku and Smalling, former team-mates at United - and today idols at Inter and Roma - go head to head tomorrow: the Scudetto and Champions League football are up for grabs."

In the article, the newspaper appeared to attempt to highlight the league's racism problem.

"In the faces of those idiots who boo, tomorrow everyone must instead go 'oooh' like children. It will be a Black Friday, but this is not an end-of-season sale," the article said.

It went on to describe Lukaku and Smalling as "two giants of colour".

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