Italy’s top football league has been blasted over artwork for an anti-racism campaign that features three paintings of monkeys.
Branded a “sick joke”, the paintings by Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto will be exhibited permanently at the entrance to the league’s main hall.
Serie A – the top flight of Italian football – claims their presence will “underline the commitment of the world of football against all forms of discrimination”.
It said the artwork “aims to spread the values of integration, multiculturalism and brotherhood”.
However, the paintings drew an angry backlash on social media from outside Italy, even if there was little reaction inside the country itself.
“These creations are an outrage, they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanisation of people of African heritage,” anti-racism group Fare said.
“Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless … Serie A have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke.”
The Lega #SerieA announced its series of anti-racism initiatives, including a representative from every team and art works https://t.co/HHNplYhFiz #KickItOut #NoToRacism #SerieATIM pic.twitter.com/2FwNGdDQ0u
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) December 16, 2019
Milan-born Fugazzotto is famous in Italy and almost all his art involves drawings of chimpanzees.
He said he got the idea for the paintings after Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly suffered racist insults during a match at Inter Milan last season.
“Why not stop censoring the word monkey in football but turn the concept around and say instead that in the end we’re all apes?” he said.
“I made the Western monkey with blue and white eyes, the Asian monkey with almond-shaped eyes and the black monkey positioned in the centre, where everything comes from.”
Italian football has been plagued by racism with Inter’s Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku and Brescia’s Italian striker Mario Balotelli having been subjected to racist insults during matches this season.
A veteran Italian pundit was dropped from a television program after suggesting Lukaku could be stopped only by giving him bananas to eat, while Brescia’s president said Balotelli’s problem was that he was “black” and he was “trying to get whiter”.
Both men said their comments were not intended to be taken seriously.
Earlier this month, Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport used the headline ‘Black Friday’ along with a picture of Lukaku and Roma’s England defender Chris Smalling to preview a match between their clubs.
Despite a wave of criticism, the newspaper stood by the headline.
Last month all 20 clubs in Italy’s top tier signed an open letter that called on “all those who love Italian football” to unite to try to eradicate the “serious problem”.