• Smalling and Lukaku ‘Black Friday’ headline sparks fresh row over racism in Italy

    Romelu Lukaku

    Former Manchester United teammates Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku were the subject of a headline that sparked a fresh race row in Italy on Thursday.

    Lukaku, who left United for Inter in the summer, and on-loan Roma defender Smalling will go face to face for the first time in Italy when the two Serie A giants clash at San Siro on Friday evening.

    Ahead of the game, Corriere dello Sport splashed the headline ‘Black Friday’ on the front cover of Thursday’s edition.

    It came with the caption: ‘Lukaku and Smalling, ex-teammates at United and now idols at Inter and Roma. It’s the game of all games tomorrow: Scudetto and Champions League on offer.’

    The headline sparked a fierce backlash on social media, with fans and journalists criticising racist undertones in the latest incident to cast a shadow over Italian football.

    Roma’s official Twitter account hit out at the headline on Thursday morning.

    There have already been several high-profile racism controversies in Serie A this season, including when Lukaku was targeted with monkey chants by Cagliari fans.

    Sampdoria midfielder Ronaldo Vieira was racially abused by travelling Roma fans, while Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch recently when he heard racist abuse being aimed at him by Hellas Verona supporters.

    All 20 Serie A clubs joined forces to write a joint open letter last week, pledging to fight the ‘serious problem’ of racism.

    ‘It’s a problem we have not done enough to combat over the years,’ it said.

    ‘We, the undersigned clubs, are united by our desire for serious change.’

    Serie A leaders Inter are looking to stay on top with a win against in-form Roma on Friday.

    Antonio Conte’s side are currently one point ahead of Juventus at the top of the standings, while Roma are nine points behind in fifth place.

     

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