We still don’t whether and how Cagliari or the supporters who racially abused Romelu Lukaku will be punished. You can thank a well-intentioned, but diabolically convoluted, system of sporting justice for that.
Late last week, the Italian FA’s sporting judge said he was delaying a decision on bringing charges in order to “acquire more evidence” from stewards and law enforcement. That’s because the abuse — while clearly audible to TV viewers, those in that section of the stand and, obviously, Lukaku himself — was not heard in the main stand. It doesn’t mean there won’t be punishment necessarily, just that a different procedure is required. You just hope it will make sense.
Meanwhile, Inter’s Curva Nord Ultras group wrote a letter to Lukaku explaining that racially abusing players of color during matches is about unsettling them and putting them off their game, nothing more. Oh, and that those who behave that way wouldn’t do it outside a stadium, because they’re not really racist.
It’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Football’s job isn’t, and can’t be, to punish people who are racist: that would require mind-readers. It’s to stop and punish racist behaviour, whether it’s monkey chants or discrimination or whatever, to ensure that players and fans of color can go to a football match without this deeply offensive behaviour.
As for Inter, they chose not to react and distance themselves from the Curva Nord’s statement. Why? Because this fan group doesn’t represent the majority of Inter supporters or even the majority of Inter Ultras: they estimate it’s made up of a few hundred people. And they don’t want to legitimize them or give them air time.
I get the argument, but the horse has bolted here. On a local level, folks can understand it. On a global level, media reports have made it seem as if the Curva Nord speaks for all Ultras, all Inter fans or even the club itself, which is deeply damaging to the club and the vast majority of their supporters. More to the point, it isn’t addressing the actual issue at hand.