(Reuters) – Maurizio Sarri has described the alleged racist abuse of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling by Chelsea fans as “disgusting” and condemned discrimination in any form in his first public comments on the incident.
Chelsea said on Monday they had banned four supporters from their matches pending a police investigation into the incident which occurred during City’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.
“First of all, I want to say that I condemn any form of discrimination, of course. I think that I have to stop here,” the Chelsea manager told reporters ahead of Thursday’s Europa League match against Vidi in Budapest.
“Because there is an investigation so I think it’s better not to say something more. Of course, my opinion is that I condemn every sort of discrimination.
“It was disgusting. You know very well my opinion, the opinion of the club, but now we have to go on.”
Sterling posted a statement on Instagram last Sunday in which he said newspapers were fuelling racism in soccer due to their negative portrayal of young black players in comparison to their white counterparts.
His comments were echoed by the Professional Footballers’ Association and former players.
One of the Chelsea supporters who has been banned admitted directing abuse at Sterling but said the vitriol was ‘not racist in nature’.
Sterling’s England team mate Ruben Loftus-Cheek said a strong response was needed to rid the sport of the problem.
“It doesn’t happen a lot in England, but obviously still happens. Most people don’t like this and it needs to be out of the game as quick as possible,” Loftus-Cheek said.
“He (Sterling) was right to say what he said. I don’t think it should be in the game or anywhere. Him speaking out was the right thing. If it happened to me I would do the same.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing)