Italy manager, Roberto Mancini has defended some children who were accused of racism after painting their faces black so they could look like Serie A top scorer Victor Osimhen during a carnival week in Naples, Italy.
Wearing costumes, masks and capes, both adults and children traditionally attend the carnival dressed as one of their heroes and this year several children chose to embody Osimhen, who has netted 20 goals in 24 matches for Napoli this season.
Hitting out at Italian culture for the alleged racist act, Napolian writer Sabrina Efionayi – who, like Osimhen, is of Nigerian origin took to social media to criticize parents for allowing their children to use blackface during the carnival.
Despite understanding why the young fans wanted to dress up in such a way, Efionayi felt it was alarming that Italians do not understand why ‘blacking up’ is offensive.
She said on Facebook: ‘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.
‘From the solidarity of Sorbillo to Koulibaly who painted his face black, to the children you painted brown in ‘honour’ of Osimhen for Carnival.
‘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.’
But the criticism wasn’t accepted by Roberto Mancini, a former Manchester City coach who is now managing the Italian National team.
Mancini defended the parents and children, insisting that ”’where some see racism, I see only wonder.”
Mancini took to Instagram to hit back at Efionayi’s criticism, posting an image of young fans in their Osimhen outfits.
‘Where some see racism, I see only wonder,’ the Euro 2020 winner urged. ‘Sport is inclusion and you kids are giants!’
Italy’s approach to racial sensitivity has been heavily questioned in recent years, especially in relation to the popular television programme ‘Tale e Quale Show’, which has seen white celebrities use blackface to transform into iconic music artists and perform as them.
Also in 2019 after artwork for an anti-racism campaign comprised three paintings of monkeys, the Italian league, Serie A received huge criticisms.