When Serie A goalscorers Romelu Lukaku and Nicolas Nkoulou marked their goals at the weekend by taking a knee, it was a particularly powerful gesture in a league that has often been blighted by racism.
Nkoulou did so on Saturday after scoring the first Serie A goal in 103 days as football in the country after it was halted during the coronavirus pandemic. Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku emulated his Torino counterpart the following day.
Lukaku later posted a photo of the moment on social media with the words- “This one is for all the people who’s fighting for injustice. I am with you.”
With no fans allowed in the stadiums there was no risk that either player would be subjected to the racist chants that frequently occurred during the first half of the Serie A season.
Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to leave the field during one match in November because of the chants and another game had to be temporarily halted after he was similarly abused.
Offensive chants had also been aimed at Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira and Kalidou Koulibaly. All of the players targeted - except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian - are Black.
Taking a knee has come to be recognised as a symbolic act in opposing racism and police violence and has been widely used by people worldwide protesting the death of George Floyd who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly eight minutes.
It gained momentum in 2016 when American football player Colin Kaepernick took the knee during the national anthem before a game to protest racism and police bruality.
"When I scored I immediately thought of my brother Floyd who is important to me,” Nkoulou said.
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