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Lukaku’s agent ‘ashamed’ of Italian football as ‘Black Friday’ headline reignites racism storm

17:32 GMT+3 05/12/2019
Romelu Lukaku
Corriere dello Sport’s front-page headline has been widely condemned, with Federico Pastorello admitting there are cultural issues to address

Romelu Lukaku’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has admitted to being “ashamed” of Italian football in the wake of Corriere dello Sport’s ‘Black Friday’ headline, with Serie A being dragged into yet another racism storm.

A leading publication in Italy plastered its front page on Thursday with images of former Manchester United team-mates Lukaku and Chris Smalling – ahead of Inter’s home date with Roma.

Their choice of headline has, however, been widely condemned , with authorities not considered to be taking racism seriously enough in a country already facing uncomfortable questions regarding cultural issues of discrimination.

Pastorello, who manages the career of Belgian frontman Lukaku, has now added his voice to those calling for action, telling Sky Sports : "Being Italian I'm really ashamed to read a title like that but I really don't want to talk about a single episode.

"At the end of the day the racist problem is a big problem. Unfortunately we are living in 1920. It's really a culture problem.

"Being an agent we are trying to protect our clients from this huge problem because it's not only a newspaper but it's a problem you can breathe in the stadium, in social media, on the street.

"I think it's a problem that is a culture problem. What I would like and wish for the future is institutions could take it more serious. There were some episodes in Champions League recently, also in Serie A games and the institution did not take so seriously the problem."

On Lukaku’s reaction to the headline, Pastorello added: "He is very sensitive on this problem. I like his attitude because he's facing it every time with strength and power.

"Not for him but the other players who are weaker than him and can't (impact on the issue).

"For sure he is not happy about that but he's strong enough to face it."

In a Serie A season which has brought racism back to the forefront of Italian society – with Brescia striker Mario Balotelli another of those to have been targeted by mindless individuals – the 20 top-tier clubs have signed an open letter vowing to address the issue.

Corriere dello Sport have done that campaign few favours, but their editor has sought to justify the actions of his employer by claiming that their spread of Lukaku and Smalling is intended to celebrate the “magnificent wealth of diversity” in football.

He said in a statement: "'Black Friday', for those who want to understand it and can understand it, was only praising diversity, taking pride in diversity, the magnificent wealth of diversity. If you don't understand it, it's because you can't do that.

"It's an innocent article, perfectly argued by (journalist) Roberto Perrone, that has been made poisonous by those who have poison inside them."