The game against Cagliari was only 25 minutes old when the abuse began.
Every time Moise Kean received the ball, supporters at the Sardegna Arena showered the Juventus striker with racist taunts and monkey chanting, and it endured for the remainder of the match. Over an hour later he answered them in the best way possible: nipping behind Darijo Srna to tap in Rodrigo Bentancur’s cross from four yards out.
That he did so directly in front of the Curva Nord – the section occupied by Cagliari’s hardcore supporters – gave him the perfect opportunity to respond provocatively, but showing a maturity beyond his years, he did not. Instead, the 19-year-old just spread his arms and enjoyed the moment, his indifference only adding fuel to the fire raging inside his tormentors.
The taunts grew louder, so much so that Juve midfielder Blaise Matuidi became embroiled in a heated argument with coach Max Allegri and then the match officials, imploring one of them to do something about the escalating situation. Neither did, however, the match playing out its final moments in deplorable fashion and, sadly, it still wasn’t over even then, as the Cagliari President went on Sky Italia immediately after the game and insisted the supporters had done nothing wrong.
“If [Federico] Bernardeschi had celebrated like that, he would’ve been treated exactly the same way by our fans,” claimed Tommaso Giulini. “If [Paulo] Dybala had the same drama queen antics after the goal that Matuidi did, he would’ve been treated exactly the same way.”
All of which, of course, is nonsense — as white players are never subjected to the racist abuse witnessed on Tuesday night, something Sky pundit Lele Adani angrily noted as he snapped back at Giulini’s preposterous comments.
Incredibly there was worse to come as, rather than support his teammate, Leonardo Bonucci spoke to the same channel to assert his belief that “the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that and the Curva should not have reacted that way.”
Sorry, what? Shouldn’t have risen above the pathetic and vile abuse that had been leveled at him for over an hour? Shouldn’t have shown the racist and deplorable crowd that not only was he unaffected by their taunts but, that at the age of 19, he was – by any measure – a bigger and better man than every single one of them?
What Moise Kean did in the face of the most disgusting treatment was prove that he is as level-headed as he is talented, that he will not be broken by a country with a clearly deep-rooted and institutional level of racism, and that while the footballing authorities do almost nothing to eradicate or remove it, he is going nowhere.
Thankfully others from around Europe stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Kean. Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling – who suffered a similar incident while on duty with England last month – took to Instagram to say “all you can do now is laugh” after he read Bonucci’s comments, while Paul Pogba insisted he will “support every fight against racism, we’re all equal” in the post below.
But back in Italy, if the worst part of the evening was seeing a young player abused in that manner, it was compounded by the knowledge that neither the Lega Serie A nor the Italian football association (the FIGC) will deliver any punishment that will make any difference.
Regardless of the fact that just one year ago Matuidi was given similar abuse in the same fixture, or Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch against Cagliari in 2017, the Sardinian club will at best be given a small fine and forced to play one or two games with sections of the stadium closed to the public.
That has been the standard response for such incidents, including Juve’s own supporters who disgraced themselves by abusing Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly in October last year and when Inter fans did the same on December 26. The atmosphere in both stadiums has not changed one iota as a result, and what happened to Kean this week only serves to highlight the fact that racism continues to be an issue that Italian football is failing to tackle.
While Allegri may have used his own post-match press conference on Tuesday to insist that Kean “should not go to provoke people,” he did at least demand action from clubs and the football authorities.
“I don’t think halting play helps, because not everyone in the stadium did that,” the coach told reporters. “We need to use the cameras, find those who are doing it and punish them. It’s very simple: Identify them and not one-year ban or two, just give them a lifetime ban. We’ve got the technology, it can be done if the authorities want to. The problem is, they don’t really want to.”
And therein lies the real problem. This morning we should be talking about how incredible it is that Moise Kean has scored six goals in less than 400 minutes for Juventus and Italy, but instead we’re discussing how a 19-year-old was subjected to vile abuse simply because he was wearing another team’s shirt and is black.
Yet the Italian FA and Serie A do nothing. Not because they can’t, but because they simply do not want to.
Adam Digby is an Italian football writer for FourFourTwo, The Independent, and elsewhere. Author of "Juventus: A History In Black & White." Follow Adam on Twitter.