Chris Smalling condemns racism in Italy as he settles in at Roma
Former Manchester United teammate Romelu Lukaku was subjected to abuse in Cagliari
Roma’s Chris Smalling is expected to make his debut after the international break. Photo: Valentina Fiordalice/EPA
Chris Smalling has described racism as an “unacceptable” and “sad” problem that affects all parts of the world but is hopeful that it will lessen in future years.
The defender spoke on the matter during his introductory press conference as a Roma player, having joined the Italian club from Manchester United on a season-long loan deal, as part of which Roma have paid United €3m (£2.7m).
Racism has became a live issue yet again in Italian football after Romelu Lukaku, a former team-mate of Smalling at Old Trafford, was subjected to racist chants as he took a penalty for Internazionale during their 2-1 victory at Cagliari last weekend. Serie A have launched an investigation into the incident but any hope of real and significant change have been tempered somewhat by an extraordinary open letter from Internazionale fans to Lukaku in which they insisted monkey chants in Italy are not racist.
Speaking about racism in general in Rome on Friday, Smalling said: “I think racism is unacceptable and should not be stood for. It is not an issue just in Italy, it is around the world. There needs to be a change, there will be generational changes and younger people will have a different perspective.
“But it does happen, not just in Italy but around the world, and it is very sad and unacceptable that it still happens in these modern times.”
Smalling is set to make his debut for Roma against Sassuolo following the international break having watched from the bench as his new club drew 1-1 with Lazio in the Rome derby last Sunday. The centre-back, who has made over 200 appearances for United having joined the club from Fulham in 2010, is confident he can be a success in Serie A having wanted to play in Italy’s top division for some time.
He said: “There is a lot of responsibility on the defence as a whole [in Italy] and the centre-backs too, but that is something I enjoy. I like to push up high, play high up the pitch, and the manager wants us to be high. I am a defender that likes to defend on the front foot so I think this is the perfect type of football for me and hopefully it allows me to show my real qualities.
“I think Serie A has always been a goal of mine to play in one day, because as a defender if you get the chance to experience Serie A you want to do it. I think I’ve played a lot in the Premier League and now I can bring my qualities that I’ve learned to Italy, and that is something I am looking forward to.”
Smalling was asked during his press conference if his charity work and, somewhat curiously, his vegan diet had put his move from Manchester for Rome in any doubt. The 29-year-old, who has 31 England caps, insisted neither had. “When I spoke to the club they knew the interest I had in my charity work, and also my vegan lifestyle. The club has put me at ease about that straight away,” he said. “I’ve been speaking about the chef and the nutritionist and we are looking at different menus and things. I did not have any worries about that. The club has been great with me, helpful with everything I need from house-hunting to everything else, and that has immediately put me at ease.
“I like to live my life with no regrets, so I am looking forward to build on this journey and make the most of it. And these two weeks of the international break have been the perfect opportunity for me to get to know the players, to get to know the style of play the manager wants to have, and to be ready for when Serie A games start again.” - Guardian