The Economist blasted over tweet criticizing Italian soccer team for lacking ‘players of color’

Soccer fans are criticizing The Economist after they claimed that the “most striking” feature of the Italian soccer team was their lack of diversity.

The outlet observed that Italy’s squad “did not include a single player considered as being of colour” and that “European football’s big night was not a great one for multiculturalism.”

The Economist added that “THE EURO 2020 final between Italy and England was striking, not just for the clash of footballing styles in the match itself, but for the socio-political undercurrents that swirled between the two sides and touched on issues that included nationalism, internationalism, and racial sensitivity.”

Reactions to The Economists statement were largely critical, with many calling out the senseless need to politicize the sport.

“Wow, Italians play for the Italian national team! Thanks for this amazing insight,” one Twitter user wrote. The mockery continued as another fan tweeted, “What “player considered (?) as being of colour (??)” means? Are we Italians transparent?”

“This is really a dumb take. Perhaps not politicize sports but just enjoy the game as it is?” one Twitter user wrote. “What’s next? Complaining about ‘too few Asians’ in the Nigerian squad? Or that the Chinese team is ‘too Chinese’?”

Others expressed frustration that The Economist made no mention of the skills and work ethic of the elite Italian athletes, let alone the teamwork and endurance it takes for a team to become victors. “Let us not speak of their greatness. Let us instead pathologize their WHITENESS.”

Twitter users also commented that no other team has come under fire for being made up solely of racial or ethnic minorities, citing as examples the Nigerian, Chinese, and Japanese teams, among others. “’The most striking aspect of Nigeria’s 26-man squad before it took to the pitch was that it did not include a single player considered as being white’ – said no journalist ever,” one fan tweeted.

The Economist also noted that Italy seemed “ambivalent” to taking a knee, and decided only to do it as a reciprocal gesture, should their opponents choose to do so. Since its inception, the gesture has been fraught with controversy, with one side claiming racial solidarity and the other saying the gesture is political in nature and does not belong in the sports arena. 

Italy’s citizenship policies may explain why there are not many persons of color in high-level national youth sports. Since citizenship is not automatically granted to children of immigrants, in many cases, minority immigrants cannot apply for citizenship until they are eighteen.