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Maurizio Sarri on Koulibaly monkey chants: Italy has racism problem and must do more

Paolo Bandini and Mina Rzouki discuss the abuse aimed at Kalidou Koulibaly during Napoli's 1-0 defeat to Internazionale on this weeks' Serie Awesome podcast.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri says Italy has a problem with racism and called upon authorities to "do something more" after monkey chants were aimed at Kalidou Koulibaly at San Siro.

Koulibaly was shown a second yellow card in the 81st minute of the 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan after sarcastically applauding the referee after a booking, with chanting clearly audible as he left the field.

Sarri, who managed Koulibaly at Napoli from 2015 to 2018, said the issue is nothing new and that territorial chants against his former club in particular are a serious issue in Italy.

"In Italy there are some problems in football, especially for Naples I think," Sarri said in a news conference on Friday ahead of Chelsea's clash with Crystal Palace. "When I was there we stopped two matches; one against Lazio in Rome, one against Sampdoria in Genoa.

"I am very sorry for Kalidou because he is a wonderful man. I am really very sorry for him. I think that in Italy we can do something more for this problem."

As a result of the chants, Inter have been punished with a two-match stadium closure, and boss Luciano Spalletti has condemned his side's fans' actions.

"I think it's only right to start by saying that my position is one of condemnation: no ifs, no buts," the Inter coach said at a news conference on Friday. "The time has come to say enough is enough."

Inter won courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from Lautaro Martinez -- 10 minutes after Koulibaly had been dismissed -- and Spalletti is disappointed that the abusers may believe they have influenced the outcome of the match.

"We need to be careful not to make people think that if they behave that way, they can have an influence on a result," he said. "We want to do things in a different way, like in other countries where you can't get a place in the stadium for all the people who want to go there, have fun and celebrate, including away fans."

Maurizio Sarri said Kalidou Koulibaly is a 'wonderful man' after the Napoli defender was subjected to monkey chanting from Inter Milan supporters
Maurizio Sarri said Kalidou Koulibaly is a 'wonderful man' after the Napoli defender was subjected to monkey chanting from Inter Milan supporters.

On Friday, FIFPro and UEFA issued a joint statement condemning the chants aimed at Koulibaly and said they were "very concerned by this unacceptable racist incident and by what appears on the surface to be a failure to respect the widely-recognised three-step anti-racism protocol."

The statement added: "Koulibaly, a French-Senegalese defender, was subject to racist chanting and, despite announcements made by the stadium speaker, the chants did not stop. Moreover, it seems that Napoli's coaching staff had already informed the referee several times of racist chants."

Indeed, Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti had said he asked the referee's assistant on three occasions to suspend the match due to the racist chanting, and that the next time his team would take matters into their own hands and walk off.

Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco said on Friday that he was "100 percent in agreement" with Ancelotti, but Spalletti does not think walking off is the answer.

"Things don't change with just one gesture, but with the constant, daily effort to change things," he said. "Then, from this repeated, daily, continued gesture, it becomes normality, because these things have happened before."

However, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri said only the police can take the decision to suspend a match when asked for his opinion on the incident. He added that football should work with schools to "educate" children.

Meanwhile, AC Milan's Gennaro Gattuso said he agrees with the idea of stopping a match, but added that it was unfair to "attack" Italy as a country. He explained that similar incidents also occur in "other civilised countries."

Several players, including Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, have come out in support of Koulibaly.

The Senegal international will now serve a two-match ban for the sending off -- one for an accumulation of yellow cards for the campaign, and the other for the dismissal.

However, Napoli's lawyer has said the club will appeal the second of the two yellow cards.

"We're looking into appealing," Mattia Grassani to Radio Kiss Kiss. "We will ask for just a one-game ban, basing our appeal on his applause, which was the reason for his second yellow card.

"You could hear the monkey chants, yet the referee did not feel it would have been right to interrupt the game. Probably a strong signal in the first half would have warned the fans and dissuaded the idiots from continuing with such behaviour, and then we would never have got to that gesture from Koulibaly."

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had appeared to play down the suggestion of racist chanting on an Italian TV show, before clarifying his comments. He said racism must not be confused with "banter" within a football stadium.

"Racism in 2018 is idiotic and stupid," he told Radio Kiss Kiss Naples. "All I say, as interior minister of Italy and as a fan, is we must avoid generalising things. Monkey chants in the stadium certainly must be condemned. This must not be confused with supporting your team.

"There is a rivalry between Napoli and Roma, rivalry between Milan and Inter and there is banter and jokes which end with the final whistle and which I think are part of the game, as long as they don't go beyond the boundaries of good taste of sport."

As well as the racist abuse received by Koulibaly, the match was also marred by tragedy when an Inter fan was killed after clashes between rival supporters before the game.

Police named the victim as 39-year-old Daniele Belardinelli, and the country's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he believes Italian football needs to send out a "strong message" in the wake of the trouble at San Siro, with the possibility of suspending football for "fruitful reflection."

However, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina ruled out a suspension of the league following a conversation with the appropriate bodies.

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