Serie A unveil anti-racism monkey paintings after announcing facial recognition technology plans
Italian league officials are also developing a system of facial recognition technology to identify fans responsible for racist chants
Last Updated: 17/12/19 8:24am
Serie A have used three paintings of monkeys to illustrate a campaign to stamp out racism.
The paintings are intended to "spread the values of integration, multiculturalism and brotherhood" and will be on permanent display at the entrance to the Serie A headquarters in Milan, the league said in a statement.
They were painted by artist Simone Fugazzotto, who is known for producing challenging work focused almost entirely on apes.
Italian football has been blighted by monkey chants and other incidents of racist abuse this season.
The league announced the project on Monday, although it was originally commissioned for the Coppa Italia final between Lazio and Atalanta in May.
"Sport, first and foremost football, is an extraordinary tool for conveying positive messages, fair play and tolerance," Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo said.
"Simone's paintings fully reflect these values and will remain on show in our headquarters.
"We know that racism is an endemic and very complex problem, which we will tackle on three different levels - the cultural one, through works like that of Simone, the sporting one, with a series of initiatives together with clubs and players, and the repressive one, thanks to the collaboration with the police.
"By acting simultaneously on these three different levels we are sure that we will be able to win the most important game against the evil that ruins the most beautiful sport in the world."
Fugazzotto said the work was intended to show that "we are complex and fascinating creatures, that we can be sad or happy, Catholics, Muslims or Buddhists, but that, after all, what determines who we are are our actions, not the colour of the skin".
Two weeks ago Italian paper Corrierre dello Sport was criticised for using the headline 'Black Friday' on its front page alongside images of Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku and Roma's Chris Smalling.
The former Manchester United team-mates were due to go up against each other for their new clubs the following day.
The article attempted to highlight the league's racism problem, but the newspaper was accused for fuelling racism by anti-discrimination campaigners.
Lukaku himself and Brescia forward Mario Balotelli are among those to make allegations of being racially abused by supporters during games this season.
Last month 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 the "serious problem".
Artist Fugazzotto defends use of monkeys
"Why use monkeys to talk about racism? First of all, it's a topic which is close to my heart because I only paint monkeys, as a metaphor of the human being.
"And also because that day [of the monkey chants aimed at Kalidou Koulibaly] I was at the stadium to watch Inter-Napoli, I'm an Inter fan, and I felt humiliated because all my brothers at the stadium were making monkey chants to an extraordinary player, and a very good person that went through a thousand of difficult situations in his lifetime.
"So I thought: wait a minute - a player I respect so much, paired with the sport I love and the subject which is part of my life, because I didn't paint monkeys for this specific initiative, I paint monkeys always, all year round for five or six years now.
"So, to answer the question I heard a minute ago - why monkeys? An initiative against racism and you're using monkeys?
"Yes, because at some point it's impossible to tell people in the stadium that it's inconceivable to call someone a monkey just because he's black, I thought maybe I'll teach them that we're all monkeys, turning the concept around.
"So I made a Western monkey, with white skin and blue eyes, an Asian monkey with Asian eyes and a black monkey in the centre because that's where it all started, that's what the theory of evolution says.
"So, in my view, the monkey becomes the spark to teach everybody that there is no difference, it's not like somebody is a man and someone else a monkey.
"At this point, if some people really care about telling a black person they are a monkey, then we are all monkeys."
Lukaku representative blasts Serie A
Romelu Lukaku's agency representative Michael Yomark has hit out at the football authority for the anti-racism monkey paintings, stating that Serie A is doing more to help frustrate rather than alleviate racism in Italian football.
"It is a disgrace," he said.
"Every time Serie A opens its mouth it gets worse, every time Serie A comes out with anything with regards to racism and their strategy to combat it, it gets worse.
"The visuals they released are insensitive, are embarrassing not only for the league but for their member clubs throughout Italy.
"I cannot comprehend it. It is just indicative of their lack of understanding. It is indicative that they have no clue what to do in relation to racism in football. It is time they seek advice and counselling from organisations that understand this issue."
When asked whether players would think twice about playing in Serie A due to recent racist incidents, he said: "I would.
"It is one thing to have a challenge. You want to make sure whether it is the club or league that they are addressing concerns in the right way and protecting the players.
"At the end of the day, it is the players that people are coming to watch and the league and teams have a responsibility to protect them and create a positive environment to perform in.
"Right now, that doesn't exist in Serie A."
Serie A to tackle racism with face ID
Italian league officials are developing a system of facial recognition technology to identify fans responsible for racist chants, De Siervo announced on Monday.
"We're working on facial recognition software to use inside the stadiums," De Siervo said.
"We're still awaiting authorisation from privacy authorities but we should be able to get that with the help of the government."
Once those images are available, clubs will have to intervene directly.
The league have also nominated one player from each of the 20 clubs to join an anti-racism team.
"We're going to do in two years what [former British prime minister Margaret] Thatcher did in 10," De Siervo added, referring to the battle against hooliganism in English stadiums in the 1980s.
This season, the Italian FA said it was considering employing advanced listening devices used in anti-terrorism operations to identify offending fans.