AC Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis has revealed his surprise that Serie A decided to commission such controversial artwork in their fight against racism.
Lega Serie A officially began their series of anti-racism initiatives on Monday, which started with the exhibition of three pieces of art from Simone Fugazzotto.
In a style typical of the artist, there were three paintings of apes each with a different colour scheme as part of the design, and the backlash was instant as the league received heavy criticism from Italian clubs as well as anti-discrimination organisations.
Roma were the first to speak out about the campaign, stating that the pictures were the wrong way to go about the fight against racism in Italian football and society.
Milan also blasted the league for a ‘total lack of consultation’, essentially distancing themselves from the use of the artwork.
Then, Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo broke his silence on the intentions behind the display on Tuesday night, apologising for the misjudgement.
Now, Gazidis has offered some insight into his views on the debacle during an interview with BBC 5Live, transcribed by Calciomercato.com, and explaining the anti-racism task force that Milan and other clubs set up recently.
“We led a group of clubs to recognise the problems we have here in Italy and that it’s not just an Italian problem,” the former Arsenal chief said.
“But obviously a first step in trying to tackle the racism that we have in our stadiums, is to recognise the problem, so we have brought together all twenty clubs to sign an open letter with a strong commitment to take action on education, new laws, complete and solid anti-racist policies because we and others feel that not enough has been done.
“Last night I was at a meeting and I saw these images that were clearly a surprise, not only for us but for the other clubs that had taken part in that commitment.
“The images were released by the League and I must say that the intention behind those images was to start responding to requests, but we immediately released a statement stating that we strongly disagreed with the use of these images that we thought insensitive and with bad timing.
“The artist tried to stimulate the disarmament of racism through dehumanising imaginary, but it is quite obvious that these subtleties would be lost in the sand of communication, it is a very clumsy way to launch oneself into what we really hope will prove to be an effective campaign to banish racism from football in Italy.
“There are many reasons to be pessimistic and it is difficult to cut it all the way, but I think that if we look at what football has done to guide positive attitudinal changes in society the direction is really positive.
“We have to face a core that offends the vast majority of people who follow football. Strict policies are required, zero tolerance, technologies to identify perpetrators so that people can understand that a league like Serie A can’t show things like that.
“The fans must also help us and become part of the situation, it is not something that can be imposed, there must be an internal movement that guides and makes this type of behaviour totally unacceptable.
“My father was in prison when I was born, he spent three years in prison as an anti-apartheid activist and when he was released we were exiled to England without passports. I grew up in England and then spent time in the United States, then again in England and now in Italy.
“It’s not just an Italian problem, although I think the problem here is serious. There is work in progress, a lot has been done in England to try to fight it, unfortunately we are seeing that in societies around the world it does not seem that progress is being made in matters such as colour, race, sexual orientation, religion etc.
“Football of course reflects the problems of society, but it is also an incredible example, the example of a team sport in which colour, religion, sexual orientation is completely irrelevant. We know our players as players, and therefore as people, and everything else is totally irrelevant, it is a kind of education through football.”
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