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

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku, who left United (opens in new tab) for Inter (opens in new tab) in the summer, and on-loan Roma (opens in new tab) 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-team-mates 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.

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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 (opens in new tab) at the top of the standings, while Roma are nine points behind in fifth place.

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.