Napoli coach says team would ‘stop playing’ over racist chants

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti says the next time a member of his team is racially abused he’d be happy for the Serie A side to stop playing.

Ancelotti was speaking after his side was beaten 1-0 by Internazionale in Milan on Boxing Day in a league game that was marred by racist chanting towards Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly and fan violence before the match in which a 35-year-old man reportedly died.

On Thursday, Serie A announced Inter will play two league games at the San Siro behind closed doors and that the 27-year-old Koulibaly had been given a two-match ban.

The Napoli coach pointed to Koulibaly’s dismissal in the 80th minute as the game’s turning point, suggesting the defender had been severely “shaken” by the abuse.

“The red card determined the result. We were pushing towards the end but we were affected by going down to 10 men,” Ancelotti told the Napoli website.

“It’s a shame because three times we asked for the match to be suspended for the racist chanting towards Koulibaly.”

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European governing body UEFA instructs that a player or team found guilty of racist conduct must be suspended for at least 10 matches. Referees are instructed to stop, suspend, or even abandon a match if racist incidents occur.

“It shook him — he’s a good-mannered player and he was bombarded by the stadium,” added Ancelotti.

“Despite our requests and the chanting, the game wasn’t suspended. I think it should have been. Next time we’ll stop playing ourselves, whatever happens.

“It was impossible for him to be calm — he cares a lot about the issue of racism and he commits a lot of time to the matter, including in society.

“What happened today is unacceptable — not just for us but for Italian football as a whole.”

Milan police chief Marcello Cardona told a media conference he’s going to ask the public safety department to ban Internazionale transfers until the end of the season and also the closure of part of San Siro stadium until March 2019, according to Repubblica.

Inter did not immediately reply to CNN’s request for comment.

According to Italian media reports, 35-year-old Daniele Belardinelli, who was an Inter fan, died after being hit by van driven by Napoli fans.

“The van driven by Napoli ultras was stopped by Inter ultras who wanted to fight and were using chains and sticks,” reported Il Corriere della Sera.

Four Napoli fans were also stabbed in violent clashes ahead of the game, said Repubblica.

According to Cadorna, 100 Inter fans had attacked Napoli supporters’ minibuses arriving in the city for the game.

However, according to mobile phone footage, Belardinelli was hit by a vehicle, likely a dark SUV and not one of the Napoli minibuses.

“You can’t die for a football game in 2018,” tweeted Italy’s hard-line interior minister Matteo Salvini.

“At the beginning of the new year, I will summon the leaders of the Serie A and B football clubs and supporters so that the stadiums and surrounding areas will once again become places of fun and not violence.”

Three Inter fans have been arrested, added Cadorna. Milan police were not immediately contactable when called by CNN International.

READ: Fans back idea of points deductions to curb racism

Milan mayor makes promise

Koulibaly was initially booked for a foul on Matteo Politano, but after sarcastically applauding the referee he was red carded.

Substitute Lautaro Martinez then scored a stoppage-time winner for Inter, while Napoli finished the game with nine men after Lorenzo Insigne was also sent off.

Koulibaly later tweeted: “I’m sorry for the defeat and above all for leaving my brothers. But I’m proud of the color of my skin. To be French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: man”

Milan mayor Beppe Sala, an Inter supporter, said on Facebook that the next time he hears racist chanting at the San Siro he’ll stand up and leave. He also apologised to Koulibaly on behalf of himself and the city of Milan.

In 2017, Ghanaian footballer Sulley Muntari said he received racial abuse every game playing in Italy’s Serie A.

Playing for Pescara at the time, Muntari walked off the pitch after hearing abuse and later told CNN Sport that he’d support a player boycott in protest against racism.

READ: Football owner says he’d quit the sport if forced to form a women’s team

Last month a study of 27,000 fans from 38 countries — conducted by anti-racism group Kick It Out and live-score app Forza Football — revealed 60% of respondents said they would support points deductions, while 54% of supporters said they had witnessed racist abuse while watching a game.

“Clubs or countries whose supporters are racially abusive should face harsher sanctions, including points deductions,” said Lord Ouseley, chairman Kick It Out.