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RACISM

‘We can no longer accept this’: Pressure grows for Italy to stamp out racist abuse

Italy coach Roberto Mancini called for tough measures in Serie A after the "unacceptable" racist abuse of Juventus's Italian international Moise Kean in Cagliari.

'We can no longer accept this': Pressure grows for Italy to stamp out racist abuse
Juventus' Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo (C-L) comforts Juventus' Italian forward Moise Kean after he was racially abused by fans. Photo: AFP

“We can no longer accept this, we need to act and hard. Racist behaviour must be stigmatised,” Mancini told reporters after receiving the Enzo Bearzot Award given annually to an Italian football manager.

“We must ensure that these things don't happen again. The attitude against Kean was unacceptable.”

Kean, along with his French teammate Blaise Matuidi and Brazilian Alex Sandro, were targeted by monkey noises and jeers in Sardinia on Tuesday.

But they increased in intensity after 19-year-old Kean scored the second goal in a 2-0 win when the youngster celebrated with his hands outstretched in front of the Cagliari fans.

And the Italy coach believes that Leonardo Bonucci was “misunderstood” when he said Juventus and Italy teammate Kean was “50-50 to blame,” to the fury of fellow internaitonal Mario Balotelli.

Mancini fears the row over Bonucci's comments has overshadowed the real problem of racist abuse by the Cagliari fans.

“It seems to me that Bonucci's words have been misunderstood and have been explained by himself,” said Mancini. 

“Now it seems that the important thing was the controversy between Balotelli and Bonucci, instead of what happened on the pitch.

“Kean's still a boy. Maybe next time he won't celebrate like he did, but he probably felt in distress.

“As for the national team, we'll see whether we call up all three.”

Italy next play a Euro 2020 qualifier against Greece on June 8, which is followed three days later with another Group J clash against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

FOOTBALL

‘Wake up, you ignorant people’: Mario Balotelli responds after fan says he’ll never be ‘fully Italian’

Mario Balotelli on Monday reacted with anger after the head of Verona's hardcore ultras fans group fuelled a racism row by denying any abuse had been directed at the Brescia forward, who he said could not even be considered Italian.

'Wake up, you ignorant people': Mario Balotelli responds after fan says he'll never be 'fully Italian'
Mario Balotelli tried to leave the pitch after Hellas Verona fans made monkey noises. File photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italian international Balotelli scored in a 2-1 Serie A defeat on Sunday, but his performance was overshadowed by his fury at monkey chants from a section of Verona's supporters.

But Verona's supporters group leader Luca Castellini insisted their fans were not racist.

READ ALSO: Italian fans to black footballer: 'Monkey chants aren't racist in Italy'

“Balotelli's a clown. He only heard it in his own head,” Castellini told Radio Cafe on Monday. “We have a cultural identity of a certain kind. We're an irreverent fan base, who make fun of bald players, ones with long hair, southern players and the ones of colour, but we don't do it with political or racist instincts.

“The chants came from only four people, who were only heard by the people who recorded the video.”

Despite denials of abuse from Verona, a video published on Twitter by a fan showed a number of supporters clearly directing monkey chants at Balotelli before the Italy international booted the ball at them in the stands.

The 29-year-old, who was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents and raised just outside Brescia, had to be held back by players from both teams to stop him from leaving the field of play.

Castellini claimed that the 36-times capped international could not be considered Italian.

“Balotelli's Italian because he has Italian citizenship, but he can never be completely Italian,” said Castellini.

That prompted Balotelli to reply on Instagram: “Here, my friends, this has nothing to do with football anymore. You are implying about a social and historical situation much bigger than you small-minded people. You guys are losing it. Wake up, you ignorant people.”

Balotelli added: “But when Mario scored and still guarantees to score goals for Italy, you were fine with it?”

When asked if Verona fans were racist, Castellini added: “We have a negro in our team and he scored yesterday and all of Verona applauded.” Castellini was referring to Verona forward Eddie Salcedo.

Verona coach Ivan Juric had earlier told Sky Sport that he heard “no racists chants, nothing at all” after a win that lifts his side to ninth, adding that “to say otherwise is a lie”.

The club's president Maurizio Setti said that his club's supporters were “light-hearted, not racist” and were a crowd with “real sport in its DNA”.

“We are the first to condemn racism but it is wrong to generalise… Maybe two or three people among 20,000 fans might have said something,” he said to Sky.

READ ALSO: 

The match was suspended for a few minutes as Balotelli tried to leave the pitch before a message was read out on the stadium loudspeaker threatening that both teams would leave the field if there was a repeat of any abuse, a message that was whistled loudly by a large number of the home fans.

Former England manager Fabio Capello on Monday praised the former Manchester City and Inter Milan player's reaction, and called for strong action.

“Balotelli's reaction was excessive in one respect but important,” the 73-year-old told Radio Anch'io Sport. “We give importance to these people, nobody has the strength to condemn them. They feel strong in groups and are sheep when they are not in a group.

“It would be enough to do as in England, there are cameras. We need decisions, not small talk.”

A number of black players have been racially abused by supporters in Italy in the opening weeks of the season, with Milan midfielder Franck Kessie targeted by Verona fans in September and Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku abused at Cagliari, also serial offenders.

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