A black Italian rugby player accused his teammates of racism on Wednesday after they gave him a ‘rotten banana’ during an anonymous ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange.
Cherif Traore wrote on Instagram that he received the unwanted gift, inside a bin bag, during a Christmas dinner with other Benetton Treviso players.
“Besides finding it an offensive gesture, what hurt me the most was seeing most of my teammates who were there laughing. As if everything was normal,” he said.
“I haven’t slept all night,” added the 28-year-old.
Traoré was born in Guinea but has lived in Italy since he was seven years old. He plays as an accessory for the northern club Treviso and for the Italian national team.
He said he doesn’t normally react to “racist jokes” so as not to make enemies.
“I decided not to be silent this time to make sure that episodes like this never happen again,” he said, adding that such behavior would be “seriously condemned outside the ‘Italy”.
Benetton Rugby said in a statement that it had “always condemned in the strongest possible terms any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination” and the incident involving Traore “has nothing to do with sport”.
He added that he will always stand for “respect for people, their culture, their ethnicity, their faith and their dignity”.
Later, the club said that the whole squad had been called for a meeting during which the players presented their apologies to Traore, who accepted them.
Traore said in a club statement that the gift was an act of “idiocy” by a single team-mate.
“I appreciated and accepted his apologies and those of the whole team.”
There have been numerous incidents of black athletes in Italy suffering racist abuse.
In football, black players are regularly mocked by fans, while in October Paola Egonu, a black volleyball player, announced she was taking a break from the Italy national team following comments questioning his nationality.