Rome - The artist who created images of monkeys for an anti-racism campaign by Italy's Serie A said his work was misunderstood, but apologised to those offended.
The Italian artist, Simone Fugazzotto, told La Repubblica that his idea to portray whites, Asians and blacks as monkeys was intended to be a "defence tool" against the insulting term often hurled at black football players by some Italian fans.
The campaign launched on Monday by the Italian league immediately drew criticism for its triptych of monkey faces in close-up, each with a slightly different colour.
"As an artist, nothing obligates me to do anything, but of course I join with the league's apologies to those who felt offended," Fugazzotto said, adding he had been painting monkeys throughout his career.
A football fan, Fugazzotto said he himself had witnessed fans at the stadium making monkey noises and throwing bananas at black players.
"I decided to make everyone a monkey. A Caucasian monkey, an Asian monkey, an African monkey," he explained, in an attempt to turn the concept of a monkey as a derogatory term on its head.
He initially wanted the images to accompany text saying "We are all monkeys," he said.
Fugazzotto almost always paints monkeys in a variety of styles, wearing human clothing and representing different cultures and historical periods.