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Artist behind Serie A’s bizarre new anti-racism campaign defends his work

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The artist behind Serie A‘s widely condemned anti-racism campaign centre-piece featuring pictures of monkeys has defended his work.  

Simone Fugazzotto was shocked when there was such a huge outcry over his decision to use images of apes. 

Italian football has been plagued by racist incidents, including monkey chants from the stands this season, but Fugazzotto insisted he never thought it would be ‘problematic’. 

Pictures of monkeys were used in Serie A's anti-racism campaign unveiled on Monday

Pictures of monkeys were used in Serie A's anti-racism campaign unveiled on Monday

Pictures of monkeys were used in Serie A’s anti-racism campaign unveiled on Monday

The artist Simone Fugazzotto (right) argued that he had always used monkeys in his work

The artist Simone Fugazzotto (right) argued that he had always used monkeys in his work

The artist Simone Fugazzotto (right) argued that he had always used monkeys in his work

He told Football Italia: ‘It was my idea, as the artist responsible for this project. I have painted monkeys for years as a metaphor for man, in all its forms and variations. 

‘I never thought that a campaign of sensibility against racism could be problematic, because we really do believe in this fight. I am ready to take on the controversy, as an artist is ready to do anything for his ideas.

‘All new ways of communicating cause controversy. Oliviero Toscani did it years ago on the theme of discrimination with his advertising campaign (for Benetton) and now they are considered masterpieces. Time will tell.’

The paintings will be on permanent display at entrance to the Serie A headquarters in Milan

The paintings will be on permanent display at entrance to the Serie A headquarters in Milan

 The paintings will be on permanent display at entrance to the Serie A headquarters in Milan

RACISM IN ITALIAN FOOTBALL THIS SEASON:  

September 1 – Romelu Lukaku subjected to monkey chants during game at Cagliari

September 16 – TopCalcio24 sack TV pundit Luciano Passirani for racist comment about Lukaku 

October 5 – AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie victim of racist chants in Genoa 

November 3 – Mario Balotelli boots ball off pitch in Verona in response to racist abuse from stands 

December 6 – Corriere dello Sport run headline: ‘Black Friday’ alongside pictures of Lukaku and Chris Smalling

Fugazzotto went on: ‘Everyone is free to think whatever they want. Art has always created discussion and controversy.

‘I have lived and painted in all corners of the world, I am a citizen of the world, and this will never change.’

After the work was unveiled on Monday, there was unequivocal criticism, particularly online from fans, players and anti-discrimination groups. 

One organisation called Fare network said on Twitter: ‘Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless.

‘In a country in which the authorities fail to deal with racism week after week SerieA have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke.’

Former England striker Stan Collymore tweeted: ‘Fantastic to see Serie A anti racism campaign posters (yes, it’s really real).

Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse from the crowd against Verona on November 3

Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse from the crowd against Verona on November 3

Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse from the crowd against Verona on November 3

‘Maybe get the mascots to Black up as a finishing touch.’

And Serie A side Roma posted: ‘AS Roma was very surprised to see what appears to be an anti-racist campaign from Serie A featuring painted monkeys on social media today. We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it.’

The anti-racism campaign comes in the wake of a number of high profile incidents this season. 

Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants when preparing to take a penalty for Inter Milan, Mario Balotelli booted the ball off the pitch in reaction to the same treatment during a game at Verona and AC Milan midfielder Frank Kessie was another victim of the abuse. 

The artist Simone Fugazzotto wanted to help change perceptions with his work

The artist Simone Fugazzotto wanted to help change perceptions with his work

The artist Simone Fugazzotto wanted to help change perceptions with his work

Veteran Italian television pundit Luciano Passirani was sacked for saying the only way to stop Lukaku scoring was to ‘give him 10 bananas’.   

And only a fortnight ago Corierre dello Sport published a front page with the headline: ‘Black Friday’, with pictures of Lukaku and Chris Smalling alongside as a preview to a game between Inter and Roma.

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’ but it seems Serie A is off to a disastrous start in that endeavour. 

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