Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said he could hardly walk after contracting the coronavirus in March but he has since made a full recovery.
Serie A’s decision to use three paintings of monkeys to launch a new campaign to stamp out racism on Monday has been branded “a sick joke”.
The league said the paintings by Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto would be exhibited permanently at the entrance to its main hall “to underline the commitment of the world of football against all forms of discrimination”.
It said the artwork “aims to spread the values of integration, multiculturalism and brotherhood”.
The paintings drew an angry backlash on social media from outside Italy, although there was little reaction inside the country itself.
“These creations are an outrage, they will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanisation of people of African heritage,” anti-racism group Fare said.
“Once again Italian football leaves the world speechless… Serie A have launched a campaign that looks like a sick joke.”
Milan-born Fugazzotto is famous in Italy and almost all his art involves drawings of chimpanzees.
He said he got the idea for the paintings after Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly suffered racist insults during a match at Inter Milan last season.
“Why not stop censoring the word monkey in football but turn the concept around and say instead that in the end we’re all apes?,” he said.
“I made the western monkey with blue and white eyes, the Asian monkey with almond-shaped eyes and the black monkey positioned in the centre, where everything comes from.”
Italian football has been plagued by racism with Inter’s Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku and Brescia’s Italian striker Mario Balotelli having been subjected to racist insults during matches this season.
A veteran Italian pundit was dropped from a television program after suggesting Lukaku could only be stopped by giving him bananas to eat, while Brescia’s president said Balotelli’s problem was that he was “black” and he was “trying to get whiter”.
Both men said their comments were not intended to be taken seriously.
Earlier this month, Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport used the headline ‘Black Friday’ along with a picture of Lukaku and Roma’s England defender Chris Smalling to preview a match between their clubs.
Despite a wave of criticism, the newspaper stood by the headline.
Last month all 20 clubs in Italy’s top tier signed an open letter which called on “all those who love Italian football” to unite to try to eradicate the “serious problem”.