Dairy farmers and shepherds on the Italian island of Sardinia rallied at the training ground of Serie A soccer club Cagliari Calcio on Saturday morning, demanding that players and coaches boycott an upcoming match in solidarity with agriculturalists.
Cagliari personnel were leaving the practice facility to board planes en route to their Sunday match against AC Milan, when they found a crowd of 100 sheep farmers blocking the exits, according to Football Italia.
The incident was part of a larger week of protest on the island over the declining price of sheep’s milk. One liter of sheep’s milk is selling for 60 euro cents, down from 85, Euronews reported, leaving producers struggling to make ends meet. They’re demanding a government price-floor of at least 70 euro cents per liter and have been demonstrating by parking dairy transport vehicles in the middle of traffic and spilling milk onto roadways.
The farmers have rallied behind the motto, “I’d rather dump it than sell it for next to nothing,” according to Euronews. One farmer filmed himself dumping 600 liters of milk onto the ground as a transportation vehicle drove into his farm expecting to deliver that product to market.
“It is an extreme gesture, but it is our last chance,” the farmer, Francesco Pintore, told local newspaper L’Unione Sarda. “At these prices we can no longer live. If we do not solve something now, we will never succeed again.”
Farmers blame a drop in demand for Pecorino Romano cheese for the lost revenue, according to Euronews. Almost half of Sardinia sheep’s milk is used to make that cheese.
Protesters wanted Cagliari not to travel to Milan for the match as a way to draw attention to the farmers’ plight, the movement’s leaders said.
Club General Manager Mario Passetti tried to calm the demonstrators, according to Cagliari fan blog Calcio Casteddu. Passetti said he was sympathetic to the movement but “not starting the team is not the right way to protest.”
“We can launch an official communication from the club in your support, but we cannot play and lose at the table,” he said. “You have to allow players to do their job.”
Protesters allowed the team to depart after several players, including Nicolo Barella, a midfielder on the Italian national team, symbolically kicked over jugs of milk to great applause.
(Skip ahead to the 6:15 mark to see the spilling of the milk.)
Cagliari is 15th of 20 teams in the Serie A standings with a 4-9-9 record. Dropping three or more spots in the standings by the end of the season would put the team in danger of relegation. The team has not played in Serie B since 2015-16 and has spent all but six seasons since 1990 in Italy’s top division.
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