Following this weekend’s Rome Derby between Lazio and Roma, Lazio player Senad Lulić hit out at Roma’s German defender of African descent, Antonio Rüdiger, with racially inflammatory comments. Lulić is quoted as saying “Two years ago [Rüdiger] was selling socks and belts in Stuttgart, now he acts like he’s a phenomenon.”
Here is Lulić’s full quote, from Goal.com:
“Rudiger was provoking us even before the game. Two years ago, he was selling socks and belts in Stuttgart. Now he acts like he’s some phenomenon.
“It’s not his fault, really, but the fault of those who are around him. They haven’t taught him good manners.”
Rüdiger was not in fact “selling socks and belts” two years ago, and instead was already a starter for Stuttgart’s first team and receiving call-ups to the senior German national squad at just 21 years of age. Lulić basically called Rüdiger uppity because of the way he carries himself, and the Bosnian player attempted to cut him down by using the common anti-immigrant stereotype that Rüdiger was some kind of street vendor. Rüdiger was born and raised in Germany to a German father and a Sierra Leonean mother.
Lulić’s accusation that his opponent provoked Lazio was probably in response to some comments Rüdiger made before the match. In an interview with a Roma website, when asked about the big derby and whether he was worried about Lazio, the defender said “I don’t know the club or the coach but I’m sure they’ll be really up for it.”
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Immediately following Lulić’s comments yesterday, a member of the media pressed Lulić for an apology. To which Lulić responded: “I said what I think. Apologise to Rudiger? It doesn’t matter, even white people sell socks.”
Lazio offered a public apology for their player’s words soon after:
“The club is pained by these comments and the way they were interpreted,” said Lazio director of communications Arturo Diaconale. “I apologise on behalf of the club, these are statements made in the heat of the moment by a player who just lost the derby.
“It went over the line. The controversy started with previous comments from the Roma player, but we all need common sense and to not blow this up.”
Today, Lulić has apologized to Rüdiger via Instagram: A translation of Lulić’s caption, from Football-Italia:
“With a cool head, I realise that I’ve responded to a provocation with another provocation,” wrote the Aquile man on his Instagram account.
“I come from a country that knows tragedies caused by ethnic prejudices.
“For that, I’m sorry that I got caught up in the tension of the derby as I expressed myself in an unfortunate way.”
In the same interview in which Rüdiger’s purportedly provocative statements came from, the German was asked about being subjected to racist abuse from fans in the stands during last season’s match against Lazio. Here’s what he had to say:
“I did hear it a bit but I’d rather not give any importance to people like that. Besides anything else they must have a few screws loose because Lazio have black players like Keita too. So it just makes no sense. If they insult me, they should realise that they’re doing exactly the same thing to one of their own players.”