'Pitch insults don't make us racist': footballers

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Four teams quit the league after being accused of racism. Football photo: Shutterstock
10:35 CET+01:00
Insulting players from an all-immigrant football team on the pitch does not amount to racism, an Italian team has claimed, as their league was thrown into disarray after four teams quit in a xenophobia row.

Four teams from the league in Forlì-Cesena, central Italy, quit over the weekend after the all-Moroccan squad Casablanca Forlì said players had been victims of racism, La Repubblica reported.

Casablanca Forlì abandoned the province’s Uisp championship a week ago, but after talks with organizers and the local mayor, the squad decided to make a comeback over the weekend.

“We are not withdrawing from the championship. We will stay on the pitch because otherwise we would be defeated by racism,” Casablanca was quoted in the newspaper as saying.

But rather than welcome the foreign footballers back, four teams - Juventinità, Leoncelli Forlimpopoli, Polis Romagna Forlì and Bertinoro - quit the championship just hours later. They consider themselves discredited by Casablanca’s claims and deny being xenophobic or racist, La Repubblica reported.

“None of us are racist. Of course, on the pitch every so often we insult [the other team], as always happens in sport, but then, in the end, we shake hands and drink together,” Deris Ferrini, manager of Polis Romagna, was quoted as saying.

The Italian teams want to meet with Casablanca as soon as possible to “clarify” the situation, he said.

On a national scale Italian football continues to be an arena for racist attacks against non-white players, despite the country’s top Serie A league imposing fines on clubs for fans’ offensive chants.

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SEE ALSO: 'If society is corrupt, football will be corrupt'

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