Italy national team coach Roberto Mancini has defended Italian children who have painted their faces black to look like Napoli star Victor Osimhen during carnival week in Naples.
Carnival in Naples is a celebration during which adults and children dress up as their heroes, with outfits, masks, and wigs. This year Victor Osimhen is a popular choice among young Neapolitans. Italy coach Roberto Mancini has defended children ‘blacking up’ as Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, insisting ‘where some see racism, I see only wonder.’
Sporting costumes, masks, and capes, both adults and children traditionally attend the carnival dressed as one of their heroes – and this year several children chose to embody Osimhen, who has netted 20 goals in 24 matches for Napoli this season.
Hitting out at Italian culture, Neapolitan writer Sabrina Efionayi – who, like Osimhen, is of Nigerian origin – took to social media to criticize parents for allowing their children to use blackface during the carnival.
Mancini has since defended the parents and children, insisting that ‘where some see racism, I see only wonder’.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 [Gino] Sorbillo painting his face black to show solidarity with Koulibaly, 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.’
Mancini swiftly took to Instagram to hit back at Efionayi’s criticism, posting an image of young fans in their Osimhen outfits.
Italy’s approach to racial sensitivity has been heavily questioned in recent years, especially in relation to the popular television programme ‘Tale e Quale Show’, which has seen white celebrities use blackface to transform into iconic music artists and perform as them.
Author: James Osondu
Sofia Bureau Chief- Bulgaria