PARIS (Reuters) – Ivory Coast midfielder Souleyman Doumbia said he experienced racism on and off the pitch when he played in Italy five years ago.
The 25-year-old, who now plays for Ligue 1 club Angers, joined Serie B side Bari in 2016 before being loaned to Vicenza in early 2017.
“It’s known in Italy, but I didn’t expect it,” Doumbia told French daily Le Parisien on Friday.
“I came from Paris, I did not know racism, except on television. I had to hang on, fight to get a few minutes, whether it was at Bari or Vicenza, where I was loaned out afterwards.”
Doumbia told the newspaper how he had been discriminated against in Vicenza.
“I felt it especially among the fans, but also in daily life,” he said.
“I remember, in Vicenza, I was in a restaurant with a friend and I was mistaken for someone who came to eat without paying. I had to justify myself by saying that I was a soccer player and that I could pay for my meal. In the long run, it was annoying.”
Italian football has been plagued by racism.
Last month, prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations of racist chanting by Lazio supporters directed at AC Milan midfielders Tiemoue Bakayoko and Franck Kessie, while Juventus issued an apology after their women’s team account tweeted a picture containing a racist gesture in August.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Jan Harvey)