Moise Kean was racially abused by Cagliari fans and not even fully supported by his own club in an incident that sheds even more light on a persistent problem that plagues the game around the globe.
The reaction to the reaction says all you need to know about the state of racism in soccer around the world in 2019.
Moise Kean was racially abused during Juventus's match at Cagliari on Tuesday. The 19-year-old was subjected to monkey chants and other vile nonsense from select fans in Sardinia. When he scored, to polish off the club's 2-0 win and continue his breakout season, his celebration was one of defiance–arms extended, a stonefaced glance at the crowd tormenting him. He's not the first player to be racially abused in Italy (Blaise Matuidi and Sulley Muntari were victims in Cagliari alone in the last couple of years), and based on all of the evidence we have, he won't be the last. Yet somehow, Leonardo Bonucci, a Juventus and Italy veteran and one of the more revered Italian players in the world, put some of the blame on his teammate.
''Kean knows himself too that he could have done something else,'' Bonucci said. ''There were racist boos after Kean's celebration and (Blaise) Matuidi got angry but I think the blame is 50 and 50. Kean made a mistake and the fans made a mistake. Saying that, we know that we have to be an example and we'll look forwards, because we all have to grow, us players too, also in these things.''
Perhaps Bonucci didn't recognize that the chants had been coming all game, not just after the goal. Even so, Kean did nothing wrong. And if he had, how is racial abuse an appropriate and equally measured response? It isn't, and it's lunacy that anyone, especially someone with Bonucci's stature and influence, would try to insist otherwise.
Bonucci backtracked the day after, with an Instagram post that read "Regardless of everything, in any case ... NO TO RACISM." He would have been better off heeding his own words to begin with.
Bonucci has rightly been criticized by different corners of the soccer-playing world. Memphis Depay, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Paul Pogba, Christian Benteke, Mario Balotelli, Jozy Altidore and Jeremy Ebobisse are among the many who have spoken out or expressed dismay in one forum or another.
@bonucci_leo19 Come capitano della Juventus sono deluso nella tua reazione, il ragazzo può gioire come vuole. Il suo ruolo ed essenziale per la sua squadra e gioca con tanto orgoglio per il suo paese Italia. Dev’essere rispettato per questo.— Memphis (@Memphis) April 3, 2019
We Will not be quiet! #SayNoToRacism
The disappointing thing about racism is when people tell the victim that he should act differently to avoid racism like that’s the problem. There are no routine acts that warrant a racist reaction and celebrating a goal a specific way certainly is not the exception #MoiseKean— Jeremy Ebobisse (@kingjebo) April 3, 2019
Bonucci even lost the moral high ground to agent Mino Raiola, who represents Kean and spoke rather eloquently and bluntly on the matter.
"Nobody should justify racism in any way or form," Raiola told the BBC. "Racism is equal as ignorance. There is no excuse for it. Federation, clubs and players should draw one line. A country like Italy should be leading on this given how many millions of Italians live abroad. You cannot be racist and Italian. You cannot be human and racist."
This is not the time to trumpet how racists can be good people too. Few matters in life are black and white, yet the issue of racism, as Matuidi cleverly alluded to using Juventus's own colors, most certainly is. Racism doesn't belong in any walk of life, let alone a soccer stadium. Yet it persists, and, sadly, it's nothing new. It was more than 14 years ago that Shaun Wright-Phillips and his England teammates were racially abused at the Bernabeu in Madrid. It was in December that Kalidou Koulibaly was targeted by Inter Milan fans. It was just last week that Callum Hudson-Odoi and his England teammates found themselves in Kean's shoes playing in Montenegro. And it was earlier on Tuesday that UEFA's president outlined how match officials should handle situations like the one in Cagliari. It didn't matter. The institutions governing the sport simply aren't doing enough, even if it's a shame they have to overcompensate for the lack of educated fans and antiquated cultural standards that exist in some corners of the globe at all.
No amount of nominal fines or threats of closed-door matches will change things. Lifetime stadium bans for proven offenders are a start, but they're ultimately a Band-Aid over a crack in a dam. Having clubs and their personnel acting in a unified manner, unlike what Juventus displayed Tuesday, is another step. The threat of docking points, as drastic as it may seem, may be the only deterrent to force clubs to really spring into action and to cause fans to really think twice about the harm they are causing. Nobody is ignorant enough to think that doing that will eradicate racism from the planet, but the half-measures taken over the years are proof enough that what's currently being done isn't working to remove it from stadiums.