Infrastructure Malta has found itself in the middle of a furore about a hopefully unintended racist slur in its social media announcement about this week’s closure of Cross Road, Marsa.
Either given the area’s particular demographics or in some kind of a jibe inspired by last weekend’s Champions League final, someone at the government roads agency chose to use an image of Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku holding a ‘Road Closed’ sign to accompany the announcement.
The advertisement seemed innocuous enough but for the fact that the area in question and its surroundings are known for their large population of African refugees.
The area, near the Marsa Open Centre, is also well known for the many refugees who loiter around in groups soliciting for day work in the early hours of every morning. Some are lucky enough to be picked up for meagre if not exploitative daily wages.
Romelu Lukaku has little need to beg for work but Infrastructure Malta’s poor choice of image appears to be a caricature of a black man holding a ‘Will Work for Food’ sign.
The notice was spotted by many on social media on Monday afternoon before it was deleted. Among them was independent politician Arnold Cassola, who took screenshots of the ill-advised advert before it was removed from the post soon after it made its debut.
The choice of image, with Lukaku in his Inter Milan uniform, could also have been intended as some kind of joke about his poor showing at last Saturday’s Champions League in the team’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City, with ‘Road Closed’ sign possibly referring to the end of Inter’s European campaign.
But if there had been a football joke intended, it was overshadowed by its racist connotations.
The image was removed from Infrastructure Malta’s website soon after it was posted when it started doing the rounds on social media.
The Belgian star striker has himself been subject to a lot of racist abuse in the past, most particularly when playing in Italy. Over 170 Juventus fans were recently banned from games after racially abusing the footballer.