Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte believes the issue of racism in Italy is getting worse and wants his country to adopt the same “zero tolerance” approach as in England.
Conte spent his entire career both as a player and manager in Italy – predominantly with Juventus – before a two-year stint in charge of Chelsea from 2016 to 2018.
He has returned to his homeland with Inter this season and is preparing for this weekend’s Milan derby.
AC Milan have launched an anti-racism task force ahead of the match, which has been called the “derby against racism”, after a series of incidents at the start of the new season.
Cagliari escaped punishment from Serie A this week after Inter striker Romelu Lukaku appeared to be subjected to monkey chants as he prepared to take – and score – a match-winning penalty in Inter’s 2-1 Serie A victory at the Sardegna Arena on September 1.
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out released a statement to the PA news agency in which they described the decision as “cowardly”.
Conte says he has been saddened to find the situation in Italy has worsened since he left for England – where he had a very different experience.
“I came back to Italy to find more bitterness. This is not nice. I have found Italy in a worse situation,” Conte said at a press conference reported by Inter Milan.
“All insults, not just racism is a problem. It exists in Italy and I think it is getting worse.
“We are all responsible. It is easy to report racism afterwards but more needs to be done. More respect is needed. We all need to take a long hard look at ourselves.
“I had an experience in England. But there is zero tolerance there. It needs to be the same here.
“In England it is a family atmosphere. In Italy we need to start making changes.
“People go to the grounds thinking they can insult and incite hatred. Fans should support their team and it should end there.”
Conte is concerned that unless action is taken to tackle the problem it will continue to worsen for years to come.
“I think we need to send strong messages. You cannot incite violence or hatred. That is the message that needs to be sent. The press have a key role,” he added.
“Those that read need to see the message. We cannot keep on this path. Things need to change.
“The new generation otherwise will get the wrong message. I am worried about the next generation.”
AC Milan’s initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of the problem and making it easier to monitor racism online and in the stands.
The joint message ahead of the 171st Milan derby is one which AC Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis hopes will strike a chord.
“With this very important first step we want to demonstrate as clearly as possible that we will be proactive and will make every effort to combat racism in football,” Gazidis said in a statement on the club website.
“These values transcend football rivalries. We are pleased to also have Inter’s support in this initiative.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P