Milan (AFP) – Scotland’s Liam Henderson on Thursday blasted a Serie A anti-racism campaign featuring monkeys as “stupid and inappropriate” after the Verona midfielder experienced racism first hand earlier this season aimed at Brescia’s Mario Balotelli.
The former Celtic and Hibernian midfielder, who joined Verona last year, was present when Italy forward Balotelli was subjected to monkey chants by some Verona fans in an Italian league game on November 3.
“It was the first time I had experienced anything like that,” the 23-year-old told AFP of the controversy over Balotelli’s abuse.
“I’d seen it on television, against (Inter Milan’s Romelu) Lukaku, and Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge.
“I was on the bench, and I didn’t hear anything, but obviously from his (Balotelli’s) reaction he heard something. You don’t react like that for no reason.”
The match, which Verona won 2-1, was suspended for a few minutes as 36-time Italy international Balotelli tried to force himself from the pitch.
A message was read out on the stadium loudspeaker threatening both teams would leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse.
Verona were given a one-match partial stadium closure, which was later suspended on appeal.
Henderson was perplexed by Serie A’s anti-racism campaign launched this week which featured three images of monkeys.
“It’s stupid and inappropriate, I think,” he said.
Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto, said that his idea to portray whites, Asians and blacks as monkeys was intended to be a “defence tool” against the insulting term often hurled at black football players by some Italian fans.
Henderson said it was wrong to “point the finger” only at Italy.
“You can’t just brandish Italy,” he said.
“People like to point the finger, but it happens everywhere.
“It’s a very small minority, the people who do or say something racist are stupid, they’re not educated.
“It’s important to educate these people because it’s truly unacceptable, it’s sad in 2019.
“I think everyone is doing a lot here, the clubs are coming together.”
A Verona spokesman said that the club were still trying to identify the culprits in the Balotelli incidente.
“It was about ten people in a 20,000 people stadium, but it shouldn’t happen,” said Henderson.
Earlier this month, Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport used the headline ‘Black Friday’ along with a picture of Lukaku and AS Roma’s England defender Chris Smalling to preview last week’s match between their clubs in Milan.
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