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Half Mag / Half Zine

The Italy and Benetton prop Cherif Traorè has revealed he received a rotten banana as part of the club’s Secret Santa, detailing the incident on social media.

The 28-year-old, who was born in Guinea, explained that what hurt him most about the “offensive gesture” was how a number of his teammates reacted with laughter and that he made the incident public in the hope of educating the person behind it.

Benetton released a statement after Traorè’s Instagram post, condemning any expression of racism but making no mention of any investigation or of Traorè’s teammates being held to account. Benetton players were summoned to the training ground on Wednesday afternoon where they apologised and were addressed by club president Amerino Zatta.

Traorè wrote: “Christmas is coming and as is traditional in a team, it’s Secret Santa time. A friendly and playful moment. A moment where you can give anonymous gifts to your mates, even ironic ones. Yesterday, when it was my turn, I found a banana inside my present. A rotten banana, inside a wet bag. Apart from calling the gesture offensive, what hurt me most and seeing most of my mates present laughing. As if everything is normal.

“I’m used to it, or I’ve had to get used to it, having to put a brave face on whenever I hear racist jokes in order to try not to hate the people close to me. Yesterday was different though. Thankfully, some friends, especially foreigners, tried to support me. Outside Italy a gesture like this is severely condemned.

“I’ve been up all night. Young guys from different backgrounds attended this Secret Santa. I have decided not to remain silent this time to ensure that episodes like this don’t happen again to prevent other people finding themselves in my current situation in the future. And hoping the sender will learn a lesson….”

Traorè arrived in Italy at the age of seven and has represented Italy at age grade level as well as the senior national team, making 15 appearances. He joined Benetton in 2015.

The club said: “With reference to the post that appeared this morning on the social profiles of Cherif Traorè, Benetton would like to reiterate that it has always condemned with the utmost firmness any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination. That is not part of our culture and does not represent our identity and our values.

“We have always proved it with deeds, not just with words. Similar behaviours have nothing to do with sport and in the face of episodes like this Benetton will always be on the side of respecting people, their culture, their ethnicity, their faith and their dignity.”

Of the later team meeting and apology, Traorè added: “The meeting was an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my teammates did when exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing else. I appreciate and accept his apology and that of the entire team.”