Is Italian basketball racist?26 October 2005

The Italian Basketball Association has announced that from next season, in addition to six foreign players, five Italians “by birth and passport” (whom someone has dubbed “genuine Italians”, perhaps alluding to the famous song by Toto Cotugno) and one Italian by passport “only” will be eligible to play. At first glance this would appear to be a percentage rule like any other. In fact, though, especially with the world of Italian sport in mind, a discriminatory reform is being forced through to the detriment of some 250,000 children whose parents are foreigners living legally in Italy. These are children who though they were not born in Italy, have grown up here and go or have been to our schools, many of whom will doubtless already be playing basketball. As they were not born in Italy, they will certainly have less chance of making it in basketball (according to this logic, even Carlton Myers is no 'genuine' Italian, as he was born abroad). Already low, their chances are reduced still further when you consider that under the law they can obtain an Italian passport only after they have been in our country for ten years. If this moment arrives before their eighteenth birthday (in other words, if they moved to Italy before their eighth birthday), they have to wait until they come of age whatever the case, as only then can they apply for Italian citizenship. Please note: the emphasis here is on 'apply'! Application processing times are quite long (at least eighteen months), and in the meantime the 'almost Italian' adult becomes foreign again in every respect (and is given a residence permit). The fact is that basketball is not an option for any of these minors. Furthermore, the Italian Basketball Association reform takes no account whatsoever of those minors with a 'residence permit', whom even under the Immigration Act are granted certain rights. Aside from those born in Italy, the situation for Italians who were adopted abroad is even more absurd, as the Italian Basketball Association considers them Italian “by passport” only! Is this how they protect our nurseries, or what? Is the fear of the recruitment of very young foreigners (who are to be fought by stricter controls) great enough not to consider even the “Italian school youth” who are admitted to other sports clubs? When will Italian sports officials finally have the courage to take changes in society structures into account?

Mauro Valeri
Lecturer on the sociology of international relations at La Sapienza University in Rome, author of the essay La razza in campo, (Race on the Playing Field), EDUP, 2005.