Italy still has major problems dealing with racism in football. So you can imagine how unreconstructed its fans are regarding sexuality.
This hasn’t stopped a brave, principled – and completely heterosexual – Serie A player taking his protest against homophobia on to the pitch, despite the obvious risk of a backlash from supporters.
Cagliari midfielder Daniele Dessena played Sunday’s match against Inter Milan at San Siro wearing shoes with rainbow-coloured laces to support the “Let’s Kick Homophobia” campaign. This provoked a flood of abuse from Cagliari supporters, particularly afterwards on blogs and websites when word got around.
“Just mind your own business and play,” was one of the more polite comments.
Dessena, who has a girlfriend and a baby, says he has no regrets despite the hostile crowd response.
“For me it was an important day because I was able to make a real contribution to a cause in which I believe,” he said.
He even took the offensive against critics, saying: “You’re ignorant fools!”
The gay association Arcigay applauded Dessena’s stance. But as usual in Italy there was complete silence from the establishment, sporting and otherwise...