ROMELU LUKAKU and Chris Smalling have hit out at Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport over their “Black Friday” headline which sparked a fresh race row in Italy.
The publication – now BANNED by both Roma and AC Milan – was previewing the upcoming game where they used photos of former Manchester United players Lukaku and Chris Smalling.
The two ex-United stars will go up against each other in the Serie A clash – but in the build-up have both released reluctant statements.
Smalling wrote: “Whilst I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive.
“I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those worlds can have.”
Meanwhile, Lukaku wrote: “Instead of focusing on a battle between two teams… Correire dello Sport comes with the dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career.
“You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue instead of talking about the beautiful game that’s going to be played at the San Siro between two great clubs.
“Education is key. You guys at Corriere dello Sport should do a better job that that.”
YOR A DISGRACE
Lukaku’s agent, Michael Yormark, was absolutely appalled by the insensitive headline, calling it “shocking” while saying he is “in disbelief”.
Yormark, of Roc Nation Sports International, said: “It’s shocking, I’m disappointed, basically. Almost in disbelief.
“We’ve read a lot, heard a lot about the racial issues in Serie A, in Italy with regards to football and the racism that exists.
“Romelu faced that in his second match of the season. He’s been outspoken about it.
“We at Roc Nation have met with Serie A three times. I saw the letter that was co-signed by clubs earlier this week but for me, it lacked substance.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do’ but you have to support that type of letter with an action plan.
“It’s one thing saying we all need to get better but how will you get better? How will you educate? What type of policies will you put in place to protect the player?”
Yormark continued: “I was obviously disappointed by the headline. I understand that the content of the story did not represent what the headline spoke to but that kind of insensitivity can’t happen.
“With all due respect to the newspaper, the editors can’t allow that to happen. It’s unacceptable. It feeds the problem.
“When you see a headline like that it continues to feed the issue. Change starts with the league, their teams, their policies, an action plan and it has to be taken seriously.
“People can’t look at this in any other way but that there is a problem.
“What is the solution? What are we going to do about it? Denial is evident.
“In the conversations I’ve had with leaders in Italy, they think it’s a select few. It’s not just a select few. The problem is escalating.
“Organisations like Serie A need to be aggressive. They need to put an action plan together. That action plan needs to be executed, enforcing more drastic measures.”
When asked if Lukaku may now quit Inter to leave Italy, Yormark claimed they “haven’t had that conversation.”
Unsurprisingly, football fans and Serie A clubs have reacted with anger and disgust at the choice of words.
Incredibly following the backlash, editor Ivan Zazzaroni has defended the decision to go with the “innocent” headline.
In a comment piece he wrote that people who did not agree with it “had poison inside them”.
Regan Walsh posted on Twitter that the newspaper is “f***ing disgusting”, while Phil Slattery wrote that it should be “cancelled”.
Andrew Cesare tweeted that it was a “shocking front page”, while Colin Millar posted that it “was not normal”.
Scott Munroe labelled it “vile and disgusting” before adding that there are “no words”.
Allen Cooper wrote that it was “unbelievable”, with another football fan expressing his shock that “this is actually happening in 2019”.
Serie A side Roma, Smalling’s team, were clearly disgusted, tweeting: “No one, absolutely nobody, not a single soul.”
Corriere dello Sport is yet to respond to criticism of the headline on its social media accounts. SunSport has contacted the newspaper for a statement.
The publication tweeted out their front page on Twitter this morning.
RACISM STORM CONTINUES
Italian football has been blighted by racism this season.
The former Liverpool and Manchester City striker launched the ball into the stands after prolonged abuse by opposition supporters, and has hardly received the full backing of his club since then.
A statement released by Brescia’s own fans called Balotelli “arrogant” and his body language took a notable downturn.
Brescia owner Massimo Cellino has also failed to calm the atmosphere having made what he called an ill-timed joke about Balotelli’s skin colour.
Incredibly, Cellino has now told Balotelli he can leave the club on a free transfer in January.
SunSport reported at the end of November how Lukaku has begged Uefa to act after he was targeted with racist abuse.
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He claimed “the whole stadium” erupted into racist chants during Inter Milan’s game away at Slavia Prague.
In September after he scored a penalty, Cagliari fans jeered him with monkey noises.
Shockingly, the Italian side avoided punishment with the country’s Football Association deciding the noises “were not discriminatory”.
This post written by John Hutchinson originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.