We have decided to publish this article from our archives again because so little has changed. It saddens us that commitment has given way to meaningless fines and platitudes against racism. This article shows how little has changed.
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar January 1st 2007
“I have been playing in Italy for three years and I see this happening almost daily, particularly in the north or centre of the country, when I am playing clubs like Lazio, Roma, Verona or Treviso,” said Marc Zoro. “It happens less in the south, but I have problems all the time.”
Samuel Eto’o never actually walked off the pitch, but his intention to do so was clear. His stand against racism earned him a human rights award from football’s governing body and rightly so, but what about Marc Zoro? He was regularly targeted by racists. It is the shame of Serie A and it has been happening to Zoro for years. On the opening day of last season Zoro had to be restrained by team-mates as he went to angrily confront racists who had monkey-chanted him yet again in Lazio’s Olympic stadium in Rome.
An embarrassed Lazio President Claudio Lotila went in to Messina’s dressing room to apologise for his club after the match. But this was neither the first nor last time that Zoro would face racist abuse. When he played against Sienna almost every touch was jeered and in November 2005 so-called Inter Milan fans would bring shame and disgrace on the club by racially abusing Zoro.
After this the Italian Federation met Zoro and promised action. It began with delaying the start of all matches in the next round of Serie A by five minutes as a protest against racism. More would be required – much more. Zoro had stood up to racists. Why was there no human rights award for him? And why did his consistent stand over three years not get the publicity and recognition that Eto’o received?
Like Eto’o, Zoro had been persistently monkey-chanted and subjected to racist abuse. Like Eto’o, he had to be persuaded not to leave the pitch. Like Eto’o he made a principled stand against racism in football and called on the Italian Football Federation to act against it. He feared that it was too deeply rooted in Italian football culture.
It was up to the Italian Football Federation and Italian supporters to prove him wrong. Marc Zoro had made his mark in the long and sadly ongoing struggle against racism in football. It was and remains as important a stand as that of Samuel Eto’o and deserves to be acknowledged as such.
“It’s deplorable that this happens in a country like Italy, which has one of the best football championships in the world and where football is so important,” said Marc Zoro.
The incident with Inter Milan’s supporters that happened on November 27th 2005 emphasised Marc Zoro’s point. The monkey-chanting in that match occurred in Messina’s San Filippo stadium as he went to collect the ball near the Milan club’s supporters. Understandably angry Zoro decided that he would not put up with it any longer. He picked up the ball and started to walk towards the officials demanding that they do something about it. This was a full three months before Samuel Eto’o decided that he too could not put up with the racist abuse a moment longer.
Zoro was consoled by Inter’s strikers the Brasilian Adriano and the Nigerian Obafemi Martins.1 It was the first time that he had been subjected to this in a home match. Perhaps that was why it affected him so badly. This time it reduced him to tears. Luis Figo and Juan Sebastian Veron apologised to Zoro on Inter Milan’s behalf, but the Serbian Sinisa Mihajlovic – a player who knew of the abuse Zoro received from Lazio fans previously as he used to play for that club – acted as if nothing had happened.
Yet Mihajlovic’s reaction was almost angelic compared to that of the ever controversial Marco Materazzi. According to Zoro, Materazzi accused him of just trying to make a name for himself. Zoro did not deem Materazzi’s comment worthy of an answer and Inter’s Chairman Massimo Moratti disagreed, praising Zoro as “an intelligent man who had acted in an intelligent way.”
Zoro’s team-mates persuaded him to carry on playing. His decision was greeted with applause from Messina’s supporters. To their credit some of Inter’s fans joined in the ovation given to Zoro. Messina lost the match 2-0, but Marc Zoro ensured that they won a lot more than they lost. The Italian Football Federation decided that it had to act and met Zoro after the match to discuss the incident. Why had it taken so long? In a scandal-ridden season this was the least discussed.
1 Martins was transferred to Newcastle United at the beginning of the current season.