Serie A has invited further controversy by using three paintings of monkeys to illustrate a campaign to stamp out racism.
The paintings are intended to “spread the values of integration, multiculturalism and brotherhood” and will be on permanent display at the entrance to the Serie A headquarters in Milan, the league said in a statement.
They were painted by artist Simone Fugazzotto, who is known for producing challenging work focused almost entirely on apes.
Italian football has been blighted by monkey chants and other incidents of racist abuse this season.
The league announced the project on Monday, although it was originally commissioned for the Coppa Italia between Lazio and Atalanta in May.
“Sport, first and foremost football, is an extraordinary tool for conveying positive messages, fair play and tolerance,” Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo said.
“Simone’s paintings fully reflect these values and will remain on show in our headquarters.
“We know that racism is an endemic and very complex problem, which we will tackle on three different levels – the cultural one, through works like that of Simone, the sporting one, with a series of initiatives together with clubs and players, and the repressive one, thanks to the collaboration with the police.
“By acting simultaneously on these three different levels we are sure that we will be able to win the most important game against the evil that ruins the most beautiful sport in the world.”
Fugazzotto said the work was intended to show that “we are complex and fascinating creatures, that we can be sad or happy, Catholics, Muslims or Buddhists, but that, after all, what determines who we are are our actions, not the colour of the skin”.
Two weeks ago Italian paper Corrierre dello Sport was criticised for using the headline ‘Black Friday’ on its front page alongside images of Lukaku and Roma’s Chris Smalling.
La prima pagina del Corriere dello Sport-Stadio ⤵️— Corriere dello Sport (@CorSport) December 5, 2019
The former Manchester United team-mates were due to go up against each other for their new clubs the following day.
The article attempted to highlight the league’s racism problem, but the newspaper was accused for fuelling racism by anti-discrimination campaigners.
Lukaku himself and Brescia forward Mario Balotelli are among those to make allegations of being racially abused by supporters during games this season.
Last month all 20 clubs in Italy’s top tier signed an open letter which called on “all those who love Italian football” to unite to try to eradicate the “serious problem”.
The PA news agency has contacted Serie A for comment.
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