An Italian TV pundit has been suspended for saying that the only way to stop Romelu Lukaku is to give “him 10 bananas to eat”.
Luciano Passirani, an Italian football journalist, was a guest on the Qui Studio a Voi Stadio show when he made the injurious remark and the director of the Telelombardia show reacted immediately by saying that he would never appear on the programme again.
The show was debating Lukaku’s impact for Inter so far since joining Manchester United in the summer and Passirani said: “Lukaku is one of the best signings that Inter could have made. I don’t see another player like him on any other team in Italy. He is one of the strongest, I like him a lot because he has that strength: he is the twin of [Dúvan] Zapata at Atalanta.”
He then added: “They have something extra that the rest don’t have, and then they score the goals and drag your team forward. This guy kills you in the one-on-ones, if you try to challenge him you wind up on the floor. Either you have 10 bananas to eat, that you give to him, or …”
The director of the show, Fabio Ravezzani, said that Passirani had apologized but that that was not enough. “Mr Passirani is 80 years old and to compliment Lukaku he used a metaphor that turned out to be racist,” he said. “I think it was a terrible lack of momentary lucidity. I cannot tolerate any kind of errors, even if momentary.”
On the pitch Lukaku has been a huge success already, scoring two goals in three games as Inter sit top of Serie A. But it has been a troubled time off the pitch after he was subjected to monkey chants by Cagliari fans. To make matters worse, Inter fans then wrote an open letter supporting the Cagliari fans.
“You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem,” said the statement, published on Facebook by a group who occupy the second tier of the Curva Nord at Inter’s San Siro home. “In Italy we use some ‘ways’ only to ‘help our teams’ and to try to make our opponents nervous, not for racism but to mess them up.”
Lukaku posted a message on Instagram after the incident in Cagliari, saying: “Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse … I did yesterday too. Football is a game to be enjoyed by everyone and we shouldn’t accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame. I hope the football federations all over the world react strongly on all cases of discrimination!”