The Roma social media team is known for being one of the best in the business. There have been countless witty tweets, creative videos, and memorable memes. I mean just scroll through the top 50 from 2018 in the thread below. Plenty of ingenious, entertaining content.
[Thread] Roma Admin’s top 50 favourite tweets in 2018— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) December 30, 2018
No.1: The WWE one (Feb 12) #RomaAdmin2018 https://t.co/01TBNVYJZD
Finding Missing Children
However, for all of the comic relief that Roma admin has provided us, it’s far from their most important work. Beginning this summer, Roma’s Twitter kicked things up to a new level; a more serious one with a greater cause than giving us a good chuckle.
A fourth missing child has been found! #ASRoma have today been informed by @missingchild_ke that an 8-year-old Kenyan girl featured in the @ChrisSmalling transfer announcement video has been found safe.— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 17, 2019
On Sunday, another Kenyan child, a 13-year-old boy was also found safe pic.twitter.com/CnQOmkuhEU
Whoever thought of this campaign deserves a standing ovation. Incoming transfers always draw plenty of attention. And not for nothing, Roma made plenty of them this summer. At some point someone had the innovative idea of using Roma’s transfer announcements to also promote a missing child campaign.
Two things that normally would have no business being mentioned in the same sentence became synonymous on Roma’s Twitter this summer. And, believe it or not, it worked; pretty darn well, at that.
Every time Roma signed a player, the photo of that player being announced was paired with a slideshow of missing children in various countries. What, at first, seemed like a good gesture, gained steam. Children featured in the ads started being found.
A total of four have been found as of mid-September. It may not be an earth-shattering number, but guess what; that’s four more kids back home with their families. You can’t put a price on that.
It’d be great to see larger, more noteworthy clubs take a cue from the Giallorossi. Just think how much more successful a campaign like this could be if a club like Barcelona, which has over 30 million English language Twitter followers, followed suit. That’s about 29.5 million more than Roma’s English account.
As newsworthy as the missing child campaign has been, Roma admin and the club deserve praise for something else, as well. We have seen countless examples of racism at Serie A matches over the years, including numerous examples in a season that is merely six weeks old. Whether it was monkey noises directed at Romelu Lukaku in Cagliari or Hellas Verona fans directing chants at Franck Kessie, racism is a major issue on the peninsula.
As disgusting as the racism from the fans has been, the response from the clubs and league has been outright disgraceful. If you can imagine Inter’s ultras defended their Sardinian counterparts and Hellas released a statement defending their own fans.
Fischi, inevitabili, per decisioni arbitrali che lasciano ancora oggi molto perplessi, e poi tanti applausi, ai nostri “gladiatori”, a fine gara. Non scadiamo in luoghi comuni ed etichette ormai scucite. Rispetto per Verona e i veronesi.#respect— Hellas Verona FC (@HellasVeronaFC) September 16, 2019
“The boos to Kessie? The insults to Donnarumma? Perhaps someone’s been dazed by the decibels of the Gialloblu fans.
“What did we hear? Whistles, inevitably, for the the refereeing decisions that still leave us very perplexed, as well as applause for our ‘gladiators’ at the end of the game.
“We won’t fall for these stereotypes. Respect for Verona and the Veronese people.”
Vabbene. The clubs aren’t going to punish their own fans. Certainly, the league would do something about it then. Wishful thinking. Cagliari, a repeat offender, was let off the hook. So was Hellas.
Yet, in a separate incident Caglairi was punished €5,000 fine for fans throwing bottles on to the pitch and at stewards against Parma. Now, that’s a statement from the league. How dare those fans not recycle the bottles! Haven’t they seen the climate protests?!
Clearly racism is a societal issue. An endemic problem that many involved with the league and its clubs continues to try and push under the rug. Italy’s worst kept dark secret.
That was until Roma answered the call. Just days ago, a supposed Roma fan decided to direct racist comments at Juan Jesus via Instagram. The disgusting comments were caught by Roma’s admin. So, they must’ve dismissed them like everyone else seems to do in Italy. Right?
Wrong. The Giallorossi went against the societal norms and took this one seriously. Roma started by reporting the individual to the police and Instagram. And they didn’t stop there. The club also announced that this certain individual would be banned from Roma games for life. Bravo! That’s a serious response.
The owner of the below Instagram account sent Juan Jesus disgusting racist abuse via direct message today— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 26, 2019
We have reported the account to the Italian police
We have reported the account to Instagram
The person responsible will be banned from #ASRoma games for life#NoToRacism pic.twitter.com/qP3SZT0pJY
It felt like a breath of fresh air in a room filled with the stale, musty air of an antiquated mindset. Finally, a club in Italy had taken real action to combat racism. The response drew plenty of praise from football fans on social media.
Roma tried to strike while the iron was hot and take the fight against racism to the next level by calling on Serie A to take on the bigotry; calling for zero tolerance. Punto e basta!
Are you really serious about tackling racism in Italian football, @SerieA?— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 27, 2019
It’s time for zero tolerance. https://t.co/zP06KeQeuQ
The logical thing, of course, would be the league getting behind an admirable initiative from one of its clubs. But this is Serie A. So rather than praising Roma, the league asked who the club’s anti-racism ambassador would be. You know, because they’ve been waiting three weeks.
Dear @ASRomaEN, we're all on the same side. Together, we're building the Serie A TIM team against racism: we've been eagerly awaiting the name of your Ambassador for 3 weeks!— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) September 27, 2019
Basically, it was an underhanded compliment. “Yeah, you know, we want to work with you to fight racism, but we need the name of a player ambassador. Oh, and by the way, you’re late.” So, instead of flat out praising the club for banning a racist, and setting a precedent, they publicly criticized Roma for not sending them a name.
Let’s be real, the “Say No to Racism” campaigns don’t work. What works is action. Roma took action. An action that wouldn’t be surprising in other countries like England or the United States, yet is taboo in Italy. What the league is saying is basically that having someone like Alessandro Florenzi stand in front of a camera encouraging fans to behave themselves will do the job. That’s all well and good, but not if it’s not backed up with real action, then it’s worthless.
Roma should be applauded for taking the first step in what will prove to be a long journey in Italy. Racism, whether we like it or not, will not disappear overnight. It still sadly exists around the world. No nation has managed to eradicate it. However, Italy has a long way to go compared to other countries though. It will be a long battle, one that can only be won by rooting out the cause: the ultras. Those who are allowed to use the stadiums as their soapbox to spew racism.
It will take bravery to combat the problem, especially on the peninsula. The elephant in the room continues to grow. Roma banning one guy won’t solve the problem, but it’s an important first step that should be applauded. So, bravo to Roma and in particular the social media team that brought the problem to the spotlight. Now, let’s hope that other clubs and eventually the league follow suit.