Koulibaly ban upheld despite outcry
The Italian football federation (FIGC) has ignored criticism and upheld a two-match ban for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly for a red card in the 1-0 defeat in the San Siro to Inter Milan on Wednesday, when he was subjected to racist monkey chants from Inter fans.
The Senegal international's treatment by Inter fans has drawn worldwide condemnation, including from Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti and Serie A's biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo, of Juventus.
Nevertheless the FIGC has insisted on Koulibaly serving the two-match ban for a second yellow card given for sarcastically applauding referee Paolo Mazzoleni when he was first booked in the 80th minute.
The FIGC has also ruled that Inter must play two home games behind closed doors, and a third with a partial closure of the San Siro.
Ancelotti said: "It (the racial abuse) shook him (Koulibaly). He's a good-mannered player and he was bombarded by the stadium. Despite our requests and the chanting, the game wasn't suspended. Next time we'll stop playing ourselves."
Posting on Twitter, Koulibaly said: "I'm sorry about the defeat and especially to have left my brothers! But I am proud of the colour of my skin. Of being French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man."
Ronaldo posted on Instagram: "No to racism and to any sort of insult and discrimination."
Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti added that it was the sort of behaviour which was holding Italian football back.
"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.
The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, apologised to Koulibaly over the insults, describing them as "a disgrace" on his Facebook page.
"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."
In a dreadful night for the Italian game, a supporter died outside the San Siro and another four were injured in a collision with a van, however this weekend's games will still go ahead.
"Saturday will be played, there will be regular matches," FIGC president Gabriele Gravina said.
"The championship will not stop.
"The next games will be played out, a decision taken in agreement with all the offices of the Federation. We do not stop against those who want to contaminate our world."
On the allegations of racism at the Inter v Napoli match, Gravina added: "The line must be very tough but here too I invite everyone to make a reflection of respect for the roles.
"We are grateful to the Ministry of the Interior for what they do to ensure the security of the events, as well as to the police bodies that have already arrested three subjects.
"I have to worry about the sport and what emerges negatively is the racist chorus against Koulibaly."
Deputy Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he will call an emergency meeting in the new year, and wrote on Twitter: "In 2018 you can not die for a football match. At the beginning of the year I will convene the leaders of supporters of Serie A and B clubs... so that the stadiums and the surrounding area will once again become a place of fun and not of violence." (© Daily Telegraph, London)