I’m not surprised about what’s happened with Romelu Lukaku as unfortunately racism was a big issue when I was playing in Italy.
I remember going to Cremonese as an Inter Milan player and getting injured. I was rolling around for a bit, but got up just to show I wasn’t hurt and carried on playing.
Suddenly half the stadium was shouting racial abuse at me.
I’d actually done my my hip in and I was trying to stay on, because I didn’t want to let the fans know I was hurt.
But for the next 20 minutes or so, until half time, they were shouting awful stuff at me, ‘n***o’ and ‘n***o di merdia’ – that kind of thing. It was terrible.
We ended up winning the game 3-1, but the next day I got a letter from the mayor of Cremonese apologising for what their fans had said and their poor behavior.
He said ‘that’s not us’ – and I was thinking, well, to be fair, it is you.
They’re your fans and you can’t control them.
It was probably worse when I first joined Inter – the day I landed there was even a racist remark on the wall about me.
Racism has always been an issue there and it feels like Italian fans have always gotten away with it. Their federation has never stamped down on it, and so they still feel they can use that kind of language and behavior to intimidate black players.
I don’t think UEFA did or still do enough to stop it. They have to set a precedent with all teams, whether it’s in Italy, France, England or wherever – but they’re not doing it.
We’ve seen it in England recently too with Marcus Rashford, we’ve seen it with Paul Pogba and obviously now Romelu Lukaku.
It isn’t right. Whether it’s the fans, or whether it’s social media, we’ve got to get our heads together to just stop all this going on.
It’s time to think about penalties instead of fines for clubs whose fans engage in racial abuse.
Disqualifications and points deductions will work better than fines.
We’ve got to throw that into the mix so that clubs and fans are aware that there is a real penalty if this behaviour persists.
Fines aren’t doing anything. It’s not hitting home to anybody. It really, really isn’t and you can see that.
We need to make it transparent, if this behavior continues, or it happens again, your club is out of Europe. It’s difficult I know because it can be individuals who tarnish everyone else. Unfortunately, there’s always one idiot, or two idiots, that will do that.
Bit there must be a deterrent. Take point off whoever it is. Remove them from Cup competitions. Playing in front of empty stadiums don’t really work – you’re only hitting the clubs in the pocket for two or three games – but point deductions, that could work.
What disturbs me is we kind of felt racial abuse was being stamped out five years ago. But in the last year or two, racism has reared its ugly head again.
It’s really disturbing.
Chris Powell joining the England set-up is great, but I want to see more BAME managers in the football league
We’ve seen that he can manage, he’s done very, very well. You can see that the FA are trying to include more BAME managers by doing that, but I want to see more black managers and coaches in the football league, in the Premier League, too. We want to and we should see more. Only if they’re good enough, of course.
Obviously, if they’re not good enough, don’t put them in there. I don’t want to it to become that a black manager is hired in just for show, or just to show that the FA are trying to do something.
You’ve got to be good at your job. If you aren’t good at it, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, pink or purple.