France angered by Italy senator’s racist slur

France has complained to World Cup winner Italy about a right-wing senator’s racist comments that the defeated French team was made up of “blacks, Muslims and communists”, the Italian media reported on Tuesday.

Racism has already threatened to cloud Italy’s victory, with reports that Italian defender Marco Materazzi provoked French star Zinedine Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, by calling him a “terrorist”. Materazzi denies making such comments.

There was no such denial from Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League, who lost a ministerial post in a centre-right government earlier this year for wearing a T-shirt with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad offensive to Muslims.

As the victorious Azzurri returned to a heroes’ welcome in Rome on Monday, Calderoli celebrated it as a “political victory” over a mixed-race French team.

Italy had “beat a team which, in the quest for results, sacrificed its own identity by selecting blacks, Muslims and communists”, the senator said, in comments that were rejected by members of Italy’s new centre-left coalition government.

Reuters, 11 July 2006