Artist Simone Fugazzotto said his three monkeys artwork was intended to show that there's no difference between humans and apes, an idea that he decided to use after watching a Serie A match where a player was subjected to constant monkey chants.
Racism in football in Europe has become a major issue and it has been particularly bad in Italy with matches in its elite league, Serie A, being blighted by racist chants and signs and the sporting body admitted it was a “serious problem”.
Any measure to combat racism is to be encouraged but artwork featuring paintings of monkeys has received widespread criticism after it was unveiled to the public and it is easy to see why.
Serie A commissioned artwork from Simone Fugazzotto and his “No to Racism” posters feature three monkeys with painted faces. It’s part of an official anti-racism initiative.
The Lega #SerieA announced its series of anti-racism initiatives, including a representative from every team and art works https://t.co/HHNplYhFiz #KickItOut #NoToRacism #SerieATIM pic.twitter.com/2FwNGdDQ0u
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) December 16, 2019
Fare, a football supporters network formed in Vienna, Austria, to counter discrimination in European football, said the “Monkeys” poster left them speechless.
Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless.
— Fare (@farenet) December 16, 2019
The condemnation was predictably widespread.
Fantastic to see Serie A anti racism campaign posters ( yes, it's really real)
Maybe get the mascots to Black up as a finishing touch.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) December 16, 2019
— Anita Asante (@NicenNeetz) December 16, 2019
#ASRoma was very surprised to see what appears to be an anti-racist campaign from Serie A featuring painted monkeys on social media today. We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it. pic.twitter.com/jVLImrgS0y
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) December 16, 2019
Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out, which has been advocating diversity in football since 1993, added: “Serie A’s use of monkeys in their anti-racism campaign is completely inappropriate, undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.
“We hope that the league reviews and replaces their campaign graphics.”
Players’ agent Jen Mendelewitsch tweeted: “Serie A ‘No to Racism’ campaign. Please tell me this is a joke.”
Fugazzotto said his monkeys artwork was intended to show that there’s no difference between humans and apes, an idea that he decided to use after watching a Serie A match between Inter Milan and Napoli.
“Everyone was making the sound of monkeys at Koulibaly, a player I respect,” Fugazzotto told the Serie A website, referring to Napoli’s Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly.
“I’ve always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I’d make this work to teach that we’re all apes.
“So I made the western monkey – white with blue eyes – the Asian monkey – with almond eyes – and the black monkey in the middle, which is where everything comes from, this is what the evolutionary theory tells us.
“The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference. It’s not that one is man and one is monkey. At this point, we are all monkeys … if they really feel the need to tell a black (player) that he is one.”
Two weeks ago Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport was criticised for using the headline “Black Friday” on its front page, alongside images of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku and Roma’s Chris Smalling. Roma and Inter Milan banned reporters from the publication until the end of the year, which led the newspaper to describe its treatment as a “lynching”.
The chairman of Serie A club Brescia, Massimo Cellino, attracted criticism in November for saying Balotelli “is black and working to whiten himself”. In September, TV pundit Luciano Passirani was sacked after saying the only way to stop striker Lukaku was to “give him 10 bananas to eat”.
Last month, all 20 Serie A clubs signed an open letter that called on “all those who love Italian football” to unite to try to eradicate its “serious problem with racism”.