Lilian Thuram was a World Cup and European Cup of Nations champion with France in 1998 and 2000, respectively. He was capped 142 times for Les Bleus which is the French record.
Thuram, a defender, began his highly decorated career in the French Ligue 1 with AS Monaco. He featured many years in the Italian Serie A. At Parma he comprised a young nucleus with Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Hernan Crespo that won the UEFA Cup in 1999. The bulk of his Italian experience was with Juventus FC. He won four Italian Scudetti (two were later rescinded.) He finished his career with FC Barcelona. He retired from professional football in 2008 due to a rare heart defect that sadly took the life of his brother.
“My Black Stars”
Thuram has written a book called “My Black Stars” that discussed inspirational people of color who have inspired him.
In recent comments published by the Milan sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Thuram painted Italian society in a pejorative light.
“ITALIA RAZZISTA” — “In Italia c’è razzismo, la società italiana è razzista” dice Thuram a proposito dei cori indirizzati all’interista Mario Balotelli, da parte dei tifosi di molti stadi italiani. “Va rilevato quello che hanno detto i tifosi della Juve – ha detto Thuram in conferenza stampa – cioè che ‘un nero non può essere italiano’: il razzismo che c’è nel calcio italiano è il razzismo che c’è nella società”.
“In Italy there is racism. Italian society is racist” says Thuram to explain the racist chants hurled at Mario Balotelli of Inter Milan by supporters at many Italian grounds.
“It needs to be pointed out what the Juventus supporters said,” stated Thuram at a press conference. “That a black man can’t be Italian. The racism that is found in Italian football is the racism that is present in society.”
“Balotelli is Going to be Defended”
“Balotelli va difeso” — “La cosa drammatica è che si invertono il ruoli, invece di comprendere la sofferenza enorme di questo giovane lo si obbliga a scusarsi per la sua reazione. Balotelli va difeso, ha bisogno d’aiuto, non è lui che ha un problema, semmai sono gli altri che ce l’hanno. Nel calcio c’è razzismo, eccome. Spero che Balotelli un giorno possa giocare per la nazionale italiana».
“The dramatic thing is that if you reversed the roles, instead of understanding the enormous suffering of this young man, you would excuse him for his reaction. Balotelli is going to be defended, he needs some help, he does not have a problem. The others are the ones who have a problem. In football there is racism, here I am, I said it. I hope that one day Balotelli can play for the Azzurri.”
(Translator’s note: Thuram meant that Balotelli’s taunts of rival fans is not problematic. The Italian FA fined Balotelli for mock applause when he was subbed out last month.)
“Riguardo la famosa testata tra Zinedine Zidane e Marco Materazzi durante la finale dei Mondiali del 2006, Thuram ha detto di non sapere come avrebbe reagito se si fosse trovato al posto del compagno, ma che “non bisogna abbassarsi a rispondere a certe persone che sono stupide”.
About Zidane’s Headbutt on Materazzi
Regarding the famous headbutt by Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final, Thuram said that he didn’t know how he would have reacted if he had been in his teammate’s shoes, but that “You don’t have to lower yourself to respond to certain persons that are stupid.”
Italian quotes courtesy of La Gazzetta dello Sport, 9 February 2010.
Italian to English translation by Steve Amoia of World Football Commentaries.