During a carnival week in Naples, Italy manager Roberto Mancini defended some children who were accused of racism after painting their faces black so they could lol like Serie A leading scorer Victor Osimhen.
Adults and children alike often attend the carnival dressed as one of their heroes, and this year some children opted to symbolize Osimhen, who has scored 20 goals in 24 appearances for Napoli this season.
Napolian writer Sabrina Efionayi – who, like Osimhen, is of Nigerian ancestry – turned to social media to chastise parents for allowing their children to wear blackface at 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.’
The criticism, however, was not accepted by Roberto Mancini, the former Manchester City coach who is now in charge of the Italian national side.
Mancini stood up for the parents and children, saying, “Where others see racism, I see wonder.”
Mancini responded to Efionayi’s criticism on Instagram, posting a photo of young fans dressed as Osimhen.
‘Where some see racism, I see only wonder,’ the Euro 2020 winner urged. ‘Sport is inclusion and you kids are giants!’
In recent years, Italy’s approach to racial sensitivity has been extensively questioned, particularly in reference to the popular television show ‘Tale e Quale Show,’ in which white celebrities used blackface to morph into iconic music artists and perform as them.
Likewise in 2019, the Italian league, Serie A, was heavily chastised after artwork for an anti-racism campaign included three drawings of monkeys.