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Italian sports daily slammed for Lukaku 'Black Friday' headline

Smalling and Lukaku, former Manchester United teammates, face off at the San Siro on Friday as Inter Milan look to maintain top spot in Serie A beating Champions League-chasing Roma, prompting the Rome-based Corriere dello Sport to publish the controversial headline.

FILE: Inter Milan's Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Italian Serie A football match Brescia vs Inter Milan on 29 October 2019 at the Mario-Rigamonti stadium in Brescia. Picture: AFP

ROME - Italian football clubs on Thursday slammed a renowned sports daily's front page as "unacceptable" and "terrible" after it used "Black Friday" in a headline in reference to Romelu Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling.

Smalling and Lukaku, former Manchester United teammates, face off at the San Siro on Friday as Inter Milan look to maintain top spot in Serie A beating Champions League-chasing Roma, prompting the Rome-based Corriere dello Sport to publish the controversial headline.

The article praised the two players for taking "strong positions against racism and are the symbols of the two clubs", but Roma tweeted "not a single soul" would think the headline a good idea.

The club's chief strategy officer Paul Rogers told AFP the choice of headline was "terrible" although the article itself was "positive".

Racism is a recurrent problem in Italian football, with several black Serie A players having suffered racial abuse by supporters in the first months of the season.

"The intention of the newspaper article was actually positive but this headline has totally overshadowed the anti-racist message contained within the story," Rogers said.

"Unfortunately, as we've seen on social media, more people will see that ill-judged headline on the front page than read the actual article and it creates new issues at a time when we are all trying to tackle the issue of racism in Italian football."

Brescia's Mario Balotelli was the victim of racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans last month, while AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie was also targeted by Verona supporters and Lukaku was himself abused at Cagliari, also serial offenders.

"It is totally unacceptable to see such casual ignorance on racism," tweeted AC Milan.

"We will not stay silent on this issue... superficiality and ignorance on the subject of racism are no longer tolerable."

Inter Milan said "football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and will always be against all forms of discrimination."

The Corriere dello Sport was unrepentant despite the backlash, saying the headline was "only the praise of difference, the pride of difference, the magnificent wealth of difference".

"White, black, yellow. Denying difference is the typical macroscopic stumbling block of anti-racism racism," it said in an editorial.

"An innocent headline... is transformed into poison by those who have poison inside."

Anti-racism body Fare said of the daily's front page "the media fuels racism every day."

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