MILAN (Reuters) – The mayor of Milan apologised to Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly on Thursday over the racist insults aimed at the Senegalese player by some of the crowd during the Serie A match against Inter Milan at San Siro.
Napoli said on their club website that Koulibaly was subject to “racist chants” during the match, without giving further details, while their coach Carlo Ancelotti said some fans made animal noises throughout the entire game.
“Those jeers at Koulibaly were a disgrace,” wrote the mayor, Giuseppe Sala, on his Facebook page after Wednesday’s match.
“It was a shameful act against a respected athlete, who proudly bears the colour of his skin, and also, to a lesser degree, against the many people who go to the stadium to support their team and be with their friends.”
Koulibaly had been subject to abuse during the game before he was sent off in the 81st minute. He was booked for a foul on Matteo Politano and then given a second yellow card for sarcastically applauding the referee’s original decision.
Reduced to 10 men, second-placed Napoli went on to concede a stoppage-time goal and lost 1-0.
“I’m disappointed by the defeat and above all to have left my brothers,” said Koulibaly on Twitter. “But I am proud of the colour of my skin. Proud to be French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man.”
The FARE network, which monitors discrimination in European football, said it was a familiar tale.
“Once again in Italian football. Player is racially abused, referee fails to act, player is angry and gets sent off. The same cycle again and again,” it tweeted.
Ancelotti said Napoli asked an Italian federation (FIGC) delegate three times during the match for the game to be suspended but, instead, public announcements were read out asking fans to stop.
The coach said Napoli would walk off the pitch if there was a similar incident in the future.
Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti added that it was the sort of behaviour which was holding back Italian football.
“If 65,000 people come and watch the match at Christmas, they want to see something else,” he said. “We need a change of mentality (if) our objective is to bring our football back to the top in Europe.”
Match officials in Italy are expected to report racist incidents to public security officials who have the power to stop games.
The guidelines were introduced in 2013 after the AC Milan team walked off the field during a friendly match in protest at racist insults aimed at several of their players.
Last year, there was an outcry after Ghanaian player Sulley Muntari was booked and sent off after complaining about racist abuse while playing for Pescara at Cagliari.
Muntari, who said that he was booked for asking the referee to stop the match, walked off the pitch in protest and was then given a second yellow card for leaving the field without permission.
Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the most celebrated player in Serie A, was among those quick to offer supportive messages to Koulibaly on social media.
Juventus’s Portuguese striker posted a picture of himself playing against Koulibaly with a message in Italian: “Education and respect are needed in the world and in football. No to racism and to any offence and discrimination.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ian Chadband)