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'Italian fans have always got away with it' – Ince calls for racism crackdown

16:27 EAT 04/09/2019
Romelu Lukaku Inter
The former Manchester United midfielder is 'not surprised' by the abuse Romelu Lukaku has received at the start of his Inter career

Paul Ince has insisted that football's governing bodies do not do enough to stop racism, particularly in Italy, after Inter's Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist abuse by opposition supporters on Sunday.

Cagliari fans appeared to direct monkey chants towards the Belgian striker during Inter's 2-1 victory at Sardegna Arena over the weekend, before and after he dispatched the winning goal from the penalty spot.

After the match, Lukaku expressed his belief that the game is "heading backwards" with regards to racism and called upon authorities and social media companies to do more to tackle a growing issue.

Inter's Curva Nord ultra's penned an open letter to Lukaku defending the actions of Cagliari fans on Tuesday, claiming "racism is not a real problem in Italy".

Former Premier League striker Demba Ba has been among those to hit back at Curva Nord's comments, with it his wish for "all black players to get out of Serie A".

Ince has also condemned the hateful actions of Italian fans, though he is "not surprised" that racism is still prevalent in a country which has seen the issue overshadow matters on the pitch for decades.

“Racism was such a big issue when I was playing in Italy, so I’m unfortunately not surprised about what’s happened with Romelu Lukaku," Ince told Paddy Power. "It's funny because I remember going to Cremonese as an Inter Milan player. I went out for the ball with the goalkeeper and he keeper fouled me. We both went down, and was rolling around for a bit. I got up just to show I wasn't hurt and carried on playing.

"Then, suddenly half the stadium was shouting racial abuse at me. The ball came out - on the edge of the box – and I hard volleyed it straight in the top right-hand corner. But I’d done my hip in and I was trying to stay on, because I didn’t want to come off and let them know I was hurt. But for the next 20 minutes or so, until half time, they were shouting awful stuff at me, ‘negro’ and ‘negro di merdia’ – that kind of thing. That was terrible. 

"Anyway, we ended up winning the game three-one, and then the next day I got a letter from the mayor of Cremonese just to say, Paul, we apologise for that, what our fans said and our poor behaviour – that’s not us. And I said, well, to be fair, it is you. They’re your fans, and you can’t control them. 

"So, it's always been there. As I say, it was probably even worse when I first went to join Inter, there was even a racist remark on the wall about me, since the first day I landed there. It's always been there. It feels like Italian fans have always got away with it – their federation never stamped down on it, and so they still feel they can use that kind of behaviour to affect black players.

"I don’t think UEFA did or do enough to stop it, they have to set a precedent down with all teams, whether it’s in Italy, France, England, wherever – everyone, but they’re not doing it."

The ex-England international went on to suggest that disqualifications and points deductions should be used as punishments for racism rather than fines, which have failed to provoke a change of attitude among Serie A fans.

Ince added: "We've seen it with Marcus Rashford, we've seen it with Paul Pogba and obviously now Romelu Lukaku. It isn’t right. Whether it's the fans, or whether it's social media, we've got to get our heads together, just stop all this going on.

"It’s time to think about sporting penalties instead of fines, we’ve got to be throwing that at people, so that they’re aware that will happen. Fines aren’t doing anything. It’s not hitting home to anybody, it really, really isn’t and you can see that. 

"We need to make it transparent, if this behaviour continues, or it happens again, your club is out of Europe. It’s difficult though because sometimes it’s individuals with these opinions, that’s different to 20 or 100 fans. Unfortunately, there’s always one idiot, or two idiots, that will do that. There must be a deterrent.

"Whether it’s in England, or Europe or whatever, take points off the teams, take them out of cup games, whatever. Empty stadiums don’t really work – you’re only hit in the pocket for two or three games – but point deductions, that could work. 

"What disturbs me is the last four or five years, we kind of felt like it was reducing and being stamped out. But in the last one or two years, it’s reared its ugly head again. It’s really disturbing."