The football world has been united in its condemnation of monkey chants from Inter Milan fans towards Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, with prominent figures including Mo Salah insisting racism has “no place” in the game.
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Koulibaly, who is currently one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, was targeted by Inter Milan fans with the chants during a Serie A game at San Siro on Wednesday, suffering abuse from the home support throughout the match. The chants intensified when the 27-year-old was sent off with ten minutes to go in the match for sarcastically clapping the referee.
Inter, who won the game 1-0 by virtue of a 91st-minute goal from Lautaro Martinez, were then slapped with a two-game stadium ban which forced them to hold their next couple of home games behind closed doors, with a third game having ‘curva’ section, which houses Inter Milan’s ‘ultra’ fans.
In a surprise twist, Senegal international Koulibaly will also face a two-game suspension for his sending off, which raised eyebrows about the Italian league’s punishment system and overall attitude in dealing with racism towards its players.
A host of prominent football figures spoke out on the incident, including Liverpool’s ‘Egyptian King’ Mo Salah, who tweeted: “There’s no place for racism in football. There’s no place for racism anywhere at all.”
He was joined by Koulibaly teammate Dries Marten, who posted a heartwarming picture fo the two sharing an embrace, with the caption: “You’re one of the most beautiful people I know, please never change. Don’t react to this b*llshit. Let’s stand together!”
A host of other famous names and faces also showed their support, including Juventus’ 5-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who posted to Instagram: “In the world and in football I always want education and respect. No to racism and any offense and discrimination!!!”
Really!? Koulibaly racially abused at San Siro. Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge.. This is unacceptable! Elected politicians set the tone with divisive rhetoric granted but some level of reason has to return! Respect Ancelotti and Napoli teammates for post match comments.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) December 27, 2018
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.
— Demba Ba (@dembabafoot) December 27, 2018
Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund were one of the club sides keen to show their support to the player, and drew attention to their ‘Borussia Unites’ anti-racism campaign. However, some football fans were criticized about their choice of protest, as a supporter was snapped holding an anti-racist banner in blackface.
Last September, our jerseys showed the message “Borussia Verbindet” which means “Borussia Unites”, our campaign against racism and all forms of discrimination.
We strongly support and stand with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly who was subjected to racial chants last night. pic.twitter.com/JN5iu4Eqgu
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) December 27, 2018
Koulibaly’s manager Carlo Ancelotti was praised by anti-racism groups for his comments made after the game in which he expressed his desire for the game to be suspended given the chants: “We asked three times for the match to be suspended and there were three announcements, but the match continued,” he told Sky.
“The player was irritable, he wasn’t in the best state of mind. Usually he’s a very calm and professional player but there were these noises throughout the game.
“It looks like an excuse but the player was agitated and irritable. It’s not good, not for us, nor for Italian football.
“The solution exists. You have to stop the match. You just have to know when, after how many announcements. And if we don’t know, then next time we may have to stop play ourselves.”