Football needs zero tolerance approach to racism – Roberts angered by Kean incident

By Guy Atkinson 4 April 2019 7
Football needs zero tolerance approach to racism – Roberts angered by Kean incident

Former Premier League striker Jason Roberts says football needs to introduce a "zero tolerance" approach to racism after Juventus striker Moise Kean was allegedy racially abused by Cagliari supporters on Tuesday.

Italy international Kean scored a sixth goal in his past seven outings for club and country in Juve's 2-0 win and celebrated by holding his arms outstretched in front of the home fans.

The 19-year-old later posted an image of the celebration to his Instagram account with the caption: "The best way to respond to racism."

Kean and team-mate Blaise Matuidi were angered by the incident and an announcement broadcast over the public address system at the Sardegna Arena warned fans against offensive behaviour, though Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini denied the abuse was racially motivated.

Raheem Sterling, Memphis Depay and Mario Balotelli have all expressed solidarity with Kean and former Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic forward Roberts believes more needs to be done at the highest levels of the game to combat the issue.

Speaking to Omnisport at the UEFA Equal Game conference at Wembley on Wednesday, he said: "I think the whole game has a very important job to do.

"We've seen over many years lots of racist incidents. We've seen players being put in positions where they've gone to their place of work and they've been abused.

"Football has a duty of care to ensure that it's not the case and it's not something we get used to.

"Players will be much more comfortable in this scenario if they know that there will be a zero-tolerance attitude towards it, that there will be strict sanctions. I think something much more has to be done about that, and whilst these things are not happening, it's been left to the players to lead on."

Roberts was also critical of Kean's Juve team-mate Leonardo Bonucci, who suggested the young striker had "50-50" culpability for inciting home supporters with his celebration.

The Italy defender has since sought to defuse the situation by posting an Instagram image of himself and Kean with the caption: "No to racism." 

Roberts added: "What troubled me was the reaction of the opposition players pulling him away as if he'd done something wrong, for half-celebrating it.

"Some of the language coming out of his own dressing room in regard to having a responsibility to not wind up the fans, I think is absolutely the opposite of the message that we should be portraying.

"It has to be the fact that it's unacceptable for a 19-year-old boy, who's young enough to be my son, to have to deal with these issues.

"I think it's a very worrying time in society in regard to some of our racial and inclusion agendas, and I think that football has to be a vehicle for the right messaging, and what we saw yesterday was the worst in many sides."

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Guy Atkinson