Italy’s next move vs. racism: anti-terrorism listening tools

Sports

FILE – In this Saturday, Sept.21, 2019 file photo, Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Inter Milan, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. The Italian soccer federation is considering employing an advanced listening device used in anti-terrorism operations to identify fans who sing racist chants. Federation president Gabriele Gravina has detailed “a passive radar device that uses directional microphones to determine the source of the noise.” (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

ROME (AP) — After five cases of racist chants in eight rounds of Serie A, the Italian soccer federation is considering employing advanced listening devices used in anti-terrorism operations to identify offending fans.

Federation president Gabriele Gravina has detailed “a passive radar device that uses directional microphones to determine the source of the noise. It can immediately determine who is making a racist chant — or it can illustrate the trajectory of fireworks.”

Gravina adds that the tool being considered requires two panels per stadium section, is not overly expensive and is made by an Italian company.

He said the only obstacle is Italy’s privacy laws, “because (the device) can also listen to private conversations inside the stadium.”

The federation is coordinating with the Interior Ministry with the aim of testing the tools during Italy’s European Championship qualifier against Armenia in Palermo, Sicily, next month.

Offensive chants have been aimed this season at Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Franck Kessie (AC Milan), Dalbert Henrique (Fiorentina), Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) and Ronaldo Vieira (Sampdoria).

Lukaku, Kessie, Dalbert, and Vieira are all black. They were targeted with monkey chants. Pjanic, a Bosnia international who is white, was called a “Gypsy.”

But the Italian league and federation have not consistently handed out penalties to the clubs whose fans were responsible or the offending fans themselves.

“This device allows you to perfectly distinguish a single voice,” Gravina said. “We would like to use this tool so that people who want to ruin the dignity of Italian and international football know that they can easily be identified and therefore punished.

“Our protocol is very strict but at times we can’t identify in detail those responsible,” Gravina added. “So we need to rely on technology.”

Gravina first detailed the possible use of the devices in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica on Monday and added further detail in a news conference.

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