Sunday, December 6, 2009

a semi-open letter to susy campanale

I wrote an email to Football Italia's Susy Campanale about her blog today, which argues that

Racism must be stamped out of football, but so must play-acting, provocation of opponents and the kind of gamesmanship that has become your bread and butter.

Got that? Play-acting, provocation of opponents, gamesmanship, racism. Yes, you're right. One of these is in fact not like the others. They haven't published my response on their site yet, so I thought I'd put it up here. If you want the shorter and more succinct version of what I attempted to say in the midst of my stuttering rage, please read Martha's response.


Dear Susy,

This is unbelievable. So Juve fans actually bring a banner into the stadium saying YOU WOULD ANNOY US EVEN IF YOU WERE WHITE and you mention it as an aside in a blog that berates Mario for acting like a kid who faces extreme provocation when he goes out to play - which, that's right, he is! In a match where, according to C4's own match report, he was not started because they were afraid it would trigger racist chanting? It's as good as saying '...but he provokes it!' in spite of your neatly-placed caveats.

Why is Mario's attitude constantly hogging the focus in any discussion about the reactions he faces? Is this how Italy always treats its bratty kids who are good enough to make it to the national team? No. It isn't. The Tottis and Chiellinis - and even the Cassanos - of the world haven't confused people the way Mario does. Come on. Basic decency goes beyond acknowledging what is right, it's about doing what is right. Shame on you, Ms Campanale. And shame on you, Juve, for sending open letters to your hate-mongering fans when you should be locking them out of your matches.


I realise it's not the most reasoned response one could have made under the circs. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't actually want to defend Mario's footballing crimes or anything. He's a teenager with an attitude and a chip on his shoulder, and no one is going to stay that way forever even if a lot of footballers really have made the attempt to do so. I'm just so tired of discussions of anti-Mario racism that are predicated on Mario's attitude, and discussions of Mario's attitude like Campanale's blog ostensibly is, that attempt to equate racist behaviour with that laundry list of his personal sins as though they are in some way related.

When this first started, the season before last, I had a racist moment myself. I looked at the banners and thought oh wow, well. One day Mario Balotelli is going to score the winning goal in a World Cup final, and it will shut everyone up and we will all look back to the abuse he was subjected to as a teenager in sad stupefaction. It was a stupid kneejerk fantasy that made me happy for about a minute. It was obviously rubbish. Mario's future success, and the future improvement of his character, and the thought that maybe somehow someday he is going to morph into the best, nicest, handsomest, most successful footballer ever created, will not stop racism against him. It will not retroactively correct tifosi's failures because he triumphed in spite of them. It will not be the final proof of his Italianness to those who sing that black people cannot be real Italians.

Because Mario's character is really not the point at all.