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Roma lead criticisms of controversial 'Black Friday' newspaper front page featuring Lukaku & Smalling

13:45 GMT+3 05/12/2019
Chris Smalling Romelu Lukaku Corriere dello Sport
Fellow Serie A side Fiorentina also responded to Corriere dello Sport's headline which was released ahead of the Giallorossi's clash with Inter

Roma have called out  Corriere dello Sport   for publishing a piece headlined 'Black Friday' that is centred around the club's trip to San Siro in a clash that will see former Manchester United team-mates Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku go head to head.

It has been suggested that the headline was intended to be a play on words following last week's day of cut-price sales that shares the same title, insinuating that both clubs picked up bargain buys when bringing the players in from Old Trafford.

There has, however, been widespread condemnation of the article and how it has been framed, with the chosen headline deemed to be particularly insensitive.

The headline and accompanying text reads: "BLACK FRIDAY.

"Lukaku and Smalling, former team-mates at United and today idols of Inter and Roma.

"Here's the challenge of challenges tomorrow: The Scudetto and the Champions League on offer.

"They learned to believes in themselves, they've taken strong positions against racism, they are symbols of two teams that have eight points more than last season. And they don't want to lose them."

Commenting on the article, Roma chief strategy officer Paul Rogers said, as quoted by BBC Sport:  "The intention of the newspaper article was actually positive. But this headline has totally overshadowed the anti-racist message contained within the story.

"Unfortunately, as we've seen on social media, more people will see that ill-judged headline on the front page than read the actual article and it creates new issues at a time when we are all trying to tackle the issue of racism in Italian football."

The ill-judged headline comes at a time where Italian football in general has been roundly lambasted due to incidents of racism at matches, with Lukaku himself  having been joined by the likes of Mario Balotelli as targets for abuse.

Indeed, incidents of racial hatred have become frequent enough for the Italian top-flight's teams to issue a joint communique stating their intent to redouble their efforts in eradicating any forms of xenophobic gestures at football grounds, calling for fan support as they discuss harsher punishments for those found guilty.

And Roma have also posted on social media to condemn  Corriere dello Sport's  front-page choice, while Fiorentina wrote "speechless" in response to the article and headline used.

Inter, meanwhile, added a message of unity, writing on their Twitter page: "Football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and will always be against all forms of discrimination #BUU #BrothersUniversallyUnited #NoToDiscrimination #FCIM"

And that was followed by AC Milan, who posted on their Twitter account: "It is totally unacceptable to see such casual ignorance on racism. We will not stay silent on this issue."

In response to the accusations of ignorance, Corriere's editor-in-chief responded: "Digital platforms? I would say dustbins. Made up of noble grudges. Cheap indignation.

“A nice thought a day keeps the doctor away. Armies of right-minded people flock to the web these days, to turn their beautiful souls white. Having identified the racist on duty, go, two strokes on the keyboard and the stain is gone. You feel like the better man in a better world. White, black, yellow.

“Denying the difference is the typical macroscopic stumbling block of the racist in the anti-racism. The mental suburbs of Sunday’s moralists, when Thursday has also become Sunday. ‘Black Friday’, for those who want and can understand it, was only the praise of difference, the pride of difference. If you don’t understand it, it’s because you can’t or because you do it.

“An innocent title, however, perfectly argued by Roberto Perrone, is transformed into poison by those who have the poison inside them.”

Both sides will hope that racism does not rear its ugly head again when Roma travel to Inter on Friday, with Antonio Conte's top-of-the-table outfit looking to continue an impressive run that has seen them lose just once in the league thus far.