It is a sensitive issue both on and off the pitch and a shameful aspect of society that has yet to be fully eradicated. One of the first players to ever confront racism in Italy was Paul Ince. He was not your average player, demonstrating grit, technique and athletic prowess. He was a complete player with an extremely strong personality, duly receiving the nickname ‘The Governor’.
Ince was the first black man to captain England’s National Team and he too was a victim of racism, something that still plagues a small part of Italian football today. It was the 1995-96 campaign and Inter were playing in Cremona. After a clash with goalkeeper Turci, the Biancorossi fans started to abuse Ince with insults of every kind, all linked to the colour of his skin. He responded by sarcastically applauding the home support, which earned him a yellow card from the referee. “I felt a sense of disgust at the time,” he said about the incident. “Luckily many apologies followed later.”
He remained at Inter for only two years, failing to lift any silverware and notably taking part in the UEFA Cup final lost on penalties to Schalke 04. In the summer of 1997 he decided to return to England due to his wife’s wishes, missing out on the chance to play together with Ronaldo. Should Inter had continued to have the Englishman in midfield, then the next few years could’ve panned rather differently for the Nerazzurri, as was noted by Moratti: “We miss Ince. He’s a top player, but also an immense character. He never dived, on the contrary I remember that he would even berate his own teammates if they made a scene.” Ultimately, he would never return to the club, but Inter fans will never forget the Governor’s character and determination.