Racially abused in only his second game with Inter Milan, the Belgian striker has spoken out against discrimination on several occasions this season.
Romelu Lukaku has spoken about the racism he has faced while playing for Inter Milan this season, saying: “I take my anger out on the field.”
Lukaku, who joined Inter from Manchester United back in August, was racially abused in only his second game with the Nerazzuri. During Inter’s 2-1 win away at Cagliari, as he went to take a decisive penalty in the second half, he was subjected to monkey chants by a number of home fans.
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Cagliari subsequently escaped punishment after the Italian Football Federation’s (FIGC) sporting justice panel ruled that the chants could not be considered discriminatory in terms of their “scale and realisation”, despite clear video evidence and the fact that Cagliari are repeat offenders whose fans, only a few months prior, racially abused Moise Kean.
Speaking to the New York Times about the incident, Lukaku has revealed what was going through his mind when he heard the chants. “[I thought] I’m going to score. I’m going to win. I’m going to go home,” he said.
“I’ve been confronted by it many times in life. You build a type of shell. I take my anger out on the field.”
Lukaku was moved to comment on another racism scandal when Corriere dello Sport previewed a match between Inter and Roma earlier this month with a front page that featured pictures of Lukaku and Chris Smalling, with the headline: ‘Black Friday’.
Lukaku called it the “dumbest of headlines” and wrote on Instagram: “You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue… education is key.” Corriere dello Sport defended the headline and made things even worse by describing the uproar as a “lynching”.
Serie A also came in for fierce criticism earlier this month after unveiling an anti-racism campaign featuring several paintings of monkeys, a move which was widely condemned as tone-deaf and counterproductive.
Italian football is not alone in struggling to deal with racism, with incidents in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and England all making headlines this season.
During Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Tottenham at the weekend, in just the latest incident in the Premier League, Antonio Rudiger reported hearing racist chants from the stands and tweeted after the game: “It’s just such a shame that racism still exists in 2019. When will this nonsense stop?”