'Do better': Lukaku, Smalling respond to newspaper's 'disturbing' back page

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

Serie A clubs Roma and Inter Milan have banned the Italian newspaper which ran a widely criticised ‘Black Friday’, sparking fresh racism concerns for a sport already grappling with racist abuse of players.

Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport was widely criticised for featuring images of Romelo Lukaku and Chris Smalling alongside the headline.

Lukaku was the subject of racist taunts from opposition fans this year following his big move from Manchester United.

Both he and Smalling have since spoken out about the newspaper, with the former labelling it ‘one of the dumbest headlines I’ve seen in my career.’

“Instead of focusing on a battle between two teams … Correire dello Sport comes with the dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career,” Lukaku said.

“You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue instead of talking about the beautiful game that’s going to be played at the San Siro between two great clubs.

Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli of FC Internazionale looks on during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and SPAL at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 1, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/Inter via Getty Images)

“Education is key. You guys at Corriere dello Sport should do a better job than that.”

Smalling was also less than impressed with the newspaper, issuing a statement of his own in which he was clearly irritated to be implicated.

“While I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive,” he said.

“I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those worlds can have.”

Editor defends ‘innocent’ headline

Despite the worldwide backlash, Corriere dello Sport editor Ivan Zazzaroni said the headline was ‘innocent’ and lashed out at his detractors.

In his editorial defending the headline, Zazzaroni said anyone who didn’t agree with the headline had ‘poison inside them’.

Previously, Italian football clubs had banded together in an effort to stamp out racism among the game’s supporters.

The incidents prompted the Italian football clubs to band together and condemn racism in an open letter.

The co-signed letter said the incidents had shamed Italian football and action had to be taken.

“We have to publicly recognise that we have a serious problem with racism,” it read.

“It’s a problem that we have not done enough to combat over the years.

“Images of players being racially abused in Italian football have been viewed and discussed all around the world this season and that shames us all.

“No individual should ever be subjected to racist abuse – inside or outside of football – and we can no longer stay silent on this issue or wait for it to magically disappear.”