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Roberto Mancini causes outrage after defending children 'blacking up' as Victor Osimhen in latest Italy racism row

Alex Brotherton

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Roberto Mancini causes outrage after defending children 'blacking up' as Victor Osimhen in latest Italy racism row

Italy national team coach Roberto Mancini has defended Italian children who have used blackface to dress up as Victor Osimhen during carnival week in Naples.

Carnival in Naples is a celebration during which adults and children dress up as their heroes, and this year Victor Osimhen is a popular choice among young Neapolitans.

The Nigerian striker has scored 20 goals in 24 league games for Napoli this season, putting his side on course to win a first Serie A title since 1990.

The problem is that some parents have allowed their children to use blackface as part of their Osimhen costumes, once again bringing to light Italy's uncomfortable relationship with racial equality.

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Neapolitan writer Sabrina Efionayi - whose family has a Nigerian background - has hit out at parents who have allowed their children to blackface, explaining that the practice is not the show of support they think it is.

"Every time a player with black skin excels in a team (in this case, Napoli), I always feel this tremendous angst over how people think he should be celebrated," she wrote on Facebook.

"From [Gino] Sorbillo painting his face black to show solidarity with [Kalidou] Koulibaly, to the children you painted brown in 'honour' of Osimhen for Carnival.

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"Trust me, it is not celebrating him at all. It gives me goosebumps if you think it is showing solidarity, being amusing or supportive of the Nigerian player."

Victor Osimhen has enjoyed a superb season for Napoli (Credit: Alamy/Vincenzo Izzo/Sipa USA)
Victor Osimhen has enjoyed a superb season for Napoli (Credit: Alamy/Vincenzo Izzo/Sipa USA)

Following the post, Mancini took to Instagram to defend those children who have dressed up as Osimhen.

"Where some see racism, I see only wonder,' the Euro 2020 winner said. "Sport is inclusion and you kids are giants!"

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This is just the latest example of Italian culture clashing with racial equality. 'Tale e Quale Show', one of the country's most popular television shows, has seen white celebrities use blackface when impersonating iconic music artists.

Italian football has been overshadowed by a number of racist incidents in recent years. Serie A drew widespread condemnation in 2019 when the branding for its anti-racism campaign comprised of three monkeys.

Players being racially abused during games is a long-standing issue in Italy. In 2021, AC Milan filed a formal complaint when Franck Kessie and Tiemoue Bakayoko were targeted by Lazio supporters.

Former Napoli captain and current Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly suffered similar treatment during his time playing in Italy.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Victor Osimhen, Napoli, Roberto Mancini, Italy, Racism, Serie A

Alex Brotherton
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