Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has called on football authorities to increase their efforts to combat racism after becoming the latest target of racial abuse that continues to blight the game.
The 26-year-old Belgium international was the target of “monkey” chants from Cagliari fans at the club’s Sardegna Arena as he prepared to take a decisive penalty kick on Sunday.
After scoring from the spot, the former Manchester United player glared at Cagliari fans positioned behind the goal.
“Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse.. I did yesterday too,” Lukaku wrote on his Instagram and Twitter pages on Monday.
“Football is a game to be enjoyed by everyone and we shouldn’t accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame. I hope the football federations all over world react strongly on all cases of discrimination!!!”
— R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 (@RomeluLukaku9) September 2, 2019
Former Juventus striker Moise Kean was subject to racist abuse when he played against the same club last season, as was Blaise Matuidi the year before.
The Italian league did not sanction Cagliari for either incident, nor did they do so when Sulley Muntari was abused by the same team’s fans in 2017.
The Pescara midfielder was so infuriated after unsuccessfully trying to get the referee to halt the game that he walked off the field and was shown a second yellow card and given a one-match ban, which was later overturned.
In response to the Lukaku chants, Serie A, Italy’s top league, announced a new initiative to be launched in October whereby one player from each team will join an anti-racism team as “a testimonial that will be the bearer of the values of respect and equality”.
Cagliari, meanwhile, promised to do everything it can to eradicate the problem but also strongly defended its fans’ reputation.
“The Club underlines – once again – its intention to identify, isolate and ban those ignorant individuals whose shameful actions and behaviours are completely against those values that Cagliari Calcio strongly promotes in all their initiatives. Every single day,” the Sardinian club said in a statement.
“Cagliari Calcio does not want to underplay what occurred last night … but firmly rejects the outrageous charge and silly stereotypes addressed to Cagliari supporters and the Sardinian people, which are absolutely unacceptable.”
Cagliari could be punished on Tuesday when the league’s judge hands down sanctions following the weekend matches.
The Italian football federation president has called for swifter retribution to similar incidents.
Inter did not release a statement of its own but also retweeted Cagliari’s statement, adding the words “BUU #BrothersUniversallyUnited.”
BUU, an acronym for Brothers Universally United, was the initiative Inter started in January when it was forced to play two matches behind closed doors as part of its punishment for racist chanting against Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly in a December 26 league match.
Lukaku also called on social media companies to take action.
Twitter, in particular, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid a slew of incidents of racial abuse being aimed at footballers by users on the platform.
Lukaku’s former United teammate Paul Pogba, 26, was recently targeted on Twitter with racial abuse after missing a penalty, as was Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, 21.
“Social media platforms (instagram, Twitter, facebook..) need to work better as well as with football clubs because everyday you see at least a racist comment under a post of a person of colour,” he wrote.
“We’ve been saying it for years and still no action.. Ladies and gentlemen it’s 2019 instead of going forward we’re going backwards and i think as players we need unify and make a statement on this matter to keep this game clean and enjoyable for everyone.”
Last month, Twitter agreed to hold talks with prominent anti-discrimination group Kick It Out in the UK to address rampant racism online after Abraham was subjected to abuse following the UEFA Super Cup final in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Are we really going back to the dark days in football 🤷🏽♂️ Romelu Lukaku suffers racist abuse yesterday. Monkey chants from the crowd as he took a penalty playing for Inter Milan against Cagliari.
What is wrong with some of the people in this world!
— Chris Kamara (@chris_kammy) September 2, 2019