Italian youth soccer team scraps plans to play in blackface

An Italian youth soccer team has backtracked from a controversial plan to play in blackface as a protest against racism in the sport.

The Aurora Desio team, based near Milan, announced the initiative in response to an alleged incident of racial abuse against a 10-year-old black player.

“As a symbolic gesture of total condemnation of racism and support to all those who are its victims, some of our teams will play with their faces painted black,” the club said in a statement on its Facebook page.

But on Wednesday, Aurora Desio director Alessandro Crisafulli told CNN that following criticism from black communities and organizations inside and outside Italy, the players will only have two black marks on their faces.

“We will paint two black fingermarks on the cheeks as a sign that we’re all brothers and that the color of the skin doesn’t matter,” Crisafulli told CNN.

During a match on Saturday, the mother of an opposing player shouted a racial expletive at the Aurora Desio player, according to the club, which posted an account on Facebook.

The club said several adults heard the racist abuse.

The alleged incident happened on the same weekend as Brescia striker Mario Balotelli was racially abused by opposition Verona fans.

In a letter addressed to, among others, Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and posted on Facebook, Aurora Desio said it “wanted to publicly denounce this shame … to the national and local authorities, to the FIGC, to local and national media, so that we can team up against this disgusting phenomenon.”

The club also called on the opposing team, Sovicese, to “condemn every form of racism,” demanding an investigation into the incident.

Aurora Desio said it would refuse to play with Sovicese until the mother responsible for the racist abuse was identified and barred from attending matches.

Sovicese said in a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday that the club “condemns any manifestation of racism” and had launched an internal investigation. “If the facts are ascertained and the person responsible is identified, we will initiate the necessary sanctioning procedures,” the club said.