ROME, Italy, Dec 27 – Inter Milan will play two Serie A home matches behind closed doors as punishment for the racist chants directed towards Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, the Italian league announced on Thursday.
Koulibaly was subjected to monkey noises from the crowd several times during Inter’s 1-0 win at the San Siro on Wednesday, leading Napoli to ask for the match to be halted, without success.
Inter will also have to play another game with their North Stand closed.
In its statement, the league’s disciplinary body mentioned “offensive songs of a racist nature towards Kalidou Koulibaly”, but also “insulting songs of a territorial nature” towards Napoli fans.
Senegalese centre-back Koulibaly will have to serve a two-match ban for his sending off, after seeing a second yellow card for sarcastically applauding the referee.
Koulibaly apologised on Twitter for the defeat and being sent off but said: “I am proud of the colour of my skin. (Proud) to be French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man.”
Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti revealed that the club’s staff had asked the referee three times to suspend the match because of the chants.
“The solution exists,” Ancelotti told Sky. “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.”
In response, Inter issued a statement “to reaffirm that since 9 March 1908 (the club’s founding date), Inter has represented integration, hospitality and progressiveness” and that the club has “always said no to any form of discrimination”.
“That is why we feel obliged today, once again, to reiterate that anyone who does not understand or accept our history – this club’s history – is not one of us,” the Milan club added.
Koulibaly has received support from both team-mates and rival players, with Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo and Inter captain Mauro Icardi among those to condemn the ugly scenes.
– Milan mayor apologises –
Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala also apologised to Koulibaly for the abuse, asking the 27-year-old for forgiveness.
“The boos aimed at Koulibaly were shameful,” said Sala on Facebook.
“A shameful act towards a true athlete who wears the colour of his skin with pride.
“I apologise to Kalidou Koulibaly on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Milan who testify to the feeling that we are brothers even in these difficult times.”
Italian football has been blighted by a series of racist incidents in recent years, and Wednesday’s were not the first to involve Koulibaly.
Juventus were hit with a partial stadium closure and a fine of 10,000 euros ($11,500) in October for racist chanting by fans towards the Napoli defender during a 3-1 victory for the champions.
Juventus and France midfielder Blaise Matuidi suffered racial abuse from fans at Cagliari and Verona last season, while Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng stormed off the pitch during a friendly with lower league side Pro Patria in 2013.
Sulley Muntari, another former Ghana international, also walked off the field in Cagliari while playing for Pescara after he was targeted by racist abuse in a game during the 2016-17 season.
Muntari was handed a one-match ban after picking up a second yellow card for leaving the pitch, but an outcry by the international players’ union FIFPro and the UN human rights agency saw the ban overturned on appeal.
Wednesday’s game in Milan was also marred by pre-match violence which saw an Inter fan die after being struck by a vehicle.
Milan police chief Marcello Cadorna told journalists that the incident happened after around 100 Inter fans attacked Napoli supporters’ minibuses with chains and hammers.
“You can’t die for a football game,” said far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, adding that he would summon fan organisations for talks in January.