Racism, violence mar Italian Christmas football

Inter travel to Empoli without fans with away stand closed during match


Afp December 28, 2018
PHOTO: AFP

MILAN: Inter Milan travel to Tuscany side Empoli on Saturday without their fans after racism and violence overshadowed Christmas football in the Italian league.

Police in Florence said that visiting Inter supporters would not be allowed to attend this weekend's match against promoted Empoli with the away stand closed.

It follows violence before Wednesday's clash against Napoli at the San Siro which resulted in a fan's death, with the game overshadowed by racist chanting towards Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

For the second consecutive year Serie A has broken with tradition, playing matches over Christmas and the New Year like the English Premier League.

The initiative has proved a big hit with the public attracting fans en masse to stadiums.

But the worst was reserved for the game which should have been the highlight of the Boxing Day fixture list in Italy between title-chasing Napoli and Inter Milan at the San Siro.

An Inter supporter was killed after being struck by a car amid brawling between rival fans before the game with tensions high on the pitch after Koulibaly was repeatedly subjected to monkey chants.

Napoli asked for the match to be halted, without success, and the team finished with nine men as Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne were both sent off late on.

Substitute Lautaro Martinez struck in the 91st minute to give Inter a 1-0 victory, a result that meant Napoli failed to capitalise on Juventus dropping points in a 2-2 draw at Atalanta.

Inter insisted that the club has "always said no to any form of discrimination," but tensions are now running high going into the final round of matches before a three-week winter break in Italy.

Inter have been ordered to play two matches behind closed doors and another game with their North Stand closed.

As for second-placed Napoli, five points clear of Inter despite the ill-tempered defeat, they host Bologna without Koulibaly.

The Senegalese defender will serve a two-match ban for his sending off, after seeing a second yellow card for sarcastically applauding the referee.

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