Saying nothing to racism: Lukaku the latest victim in Italian football's never-ending cycle of shame

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Inter's new striker was subjected to monkey chants at Cagliari on Sunday evening and the shocking thing is: it wasn't the least bit surprising

We've been here before. Cagliari. Racial abuse. A seemingly never-ending cycle of supporters targeting players of colour at the Sardegna Arena.

Sulley Muntari in 2017, Blaise Matuidi in 2018, Moise Kean in April – on Sunday, it was Romelu Lukaku's turn.

As he stepped up to take a penalty for Inter in front of the Curva Nord, he was subjected to monkey chants.

They only intensified after he converted.

As the Belgium striker's team-mates ran to congratulate him on a game-winning goal, Lukaku issued a short but stern stare at those insulting him in the stands.

He appeared to consider making a statement, as Kean had done five months previously, by silently celebrating in front of the fans.

Lukaku thought better of it. Perhaps wisely. After all, Kean had, rather outrageously, been accused of provocation that night – even by one of his own team-mates.

As Leonardo Bonucci's reaction underlined, many Italians just don't get it. The Italian Football Federation certainly doesn't.

It ultimately decided against sanctioning Cagliari any further over the abuse to which Kean was subjected that night. Which is why this keeps happening.

Romelu Lukaku Inter 2019

Nobody is doing anything about it, other than issuing the odd insignificant fine.

There are no points deductions, no stadium closures - meaning no deterrents for the perpetrators. And no incentives for clubs to eliminate racism from their grounds.

After the Kean controversy, Cagliari president Tommaso Guilini took umbrage with TV pundit Daniele Adani criticising the club's fans, accusing the former Italy defender of being "self-righteous" and making unfair generalisations.

The Rossoblu were at it again on Monday, when they released a statement addressing the abuse aimed at Lukaku.

"Cagliari does not want to underplay what occurred last night, it endorses the respectable moral values of its people from all the stadium sections," the press release read, "but firmly rejects the outrageous charge and silly stereotypes addressed to Cagliari supporters and the Sardinian people, which are absolutely unacceptable."

Apparently, accusing a section of Cagliari fans of racism is "unacceptable"; the racism itself, though, is totally fine.

The club expressed its intent to "to identify, isolate and ban those ignorant individuals whose shameful actions and behaviours are completely against those values that Cagliari strongly promotes in all their initiatives".

Presumably, those responsible for abusing Lukaku were a completely different bunch to those that insulted Kean last year. What an unfortunate coincidence that this just keeps happening at the Sardegna Arena.

Moise Kean Cagliari Juventus PS

The one thing that Cagliari did get right on Monday was claim that everyone has a responsibility to partake in the fight against racism.

"We believe our commitment needs a real support by the rest of the football stakeholders," the statement reasoned, "starting from all the true supporters, to all the stewards in the stands, from police and security agents, passing to media and as well through Lega Serie A and FIGC."

There are racists at every Italian club, in every stadium. Hell, some are even in parliament. But then, Italy is not alone in that regard, is it? There are ignorant buffoons in office all across the globe right now.

So, football can't be expected to solve racism, in Italy or across the globe; it can be expected to get its house in order, though. And that means adequately punishing those responsible for racially abusing players within its stadia.

After the Kean incident, Allegri rightly pointed out, "It’s very simple: identify the [racists] and don't give them a one or two-year ban – just give them a lifetime ban.

"We’ve got the technology; it can be done if the authorities want to. The problem is, they don’t really want to."

Massimiliano Allegri Cagliari Juventus PS

That is a strong accusation but it's becoming increasingly difficult to dispute.

On Monday afternoon, Sky Sport Italia ran a 10-minute segment showcasing how advanced the surveillance cameras are at top stadia.

So, why, then, can we instantly establish if the whole of the ball has gone even a millimetre over the line – but are unable to identify those in the crowd responsible for monkey chants?

We keep saying 'no to racism'. But the authorities keep saying no to any form of meaningful punishment.

But enough is enough. This has to stop. And that means stopping games.

Any incident of racism should result in an immediate suspension of play and the award of a victory to those on the receiving end.

Nobody wants to see umpteen games abandoned. But it's preferable to witnessing the sickeningly familiar scene of a player of colour being racially abused.

It's an extreme solution to an extreme problem. But not even a new one. As Lukaku lamented, "We've been saying [harsher punishments are needed] for years and still no action."

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This is all getting annoyingly repetitive. Indeed, if this article is starting to feel familiar, it's because it's not the first of its kind.

You've read it before. And you'll read it again.

Because as this endless cycle of racist incidents in Sardinia underlines, without action, words are eventually rendered meaningless.

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