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Italian minister opposes stadium closures amid racism row

RACIST ABUSE: Kalidou Koulibaly was targeted by monkey charts during a match last month

ITALY’S INTERIOR minister Matteo Salvini has contributed to the debate over racism in football in the country to say that he is against stadium closures because of racist abuse at games.

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister for Italy’s far-right Lega Nord party, shared his thoughts on the action at a summit of Italian football and government leaders yesterday.

The most recent high profile debate over racism in the country erupted after Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was subjected to monkey chants during a Serie A match against Inter Milan on December 26.

Following the racist chants, the Italian league judge ruled that Inter-Milan’s next two matches were to be played behind closed doors and the club’s third home game would be in the format of a partial closure.

Salvini: “The issue of suspension of games in case of offensive chants is a very slippery slope.

“We risk putting the fate of a lot of people in the hands of very few."

He added that it was difficult to find fair criteria for the decision.

Instead of stadium closures, Salvini said he was supported other measures to address racist abuse in football.

"I'm in favour of holding supporters accountable by saying that whoever makes a mistake must pay,” France 24 reported he said.

UEFA has condemned the racist abuse that Koulibaly was subjected to.

In a joint statement with FIFPro, it said: "FIFPro and UEFA are very concerned by this unacceptable racist incident and by what appears on the surface to be a failure to respect the ... anti-racism protocol.”

During the match in which he suffered racist abuse, Koulibaly was later sent off and given a two match ban after he received a red card.

Koulibaly said in a tweet after the match: “I'm sorry about the defeat and especially to have left my brothers! But I am proud of the colour of my skin. Of being French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man.”

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti had asked for the game to be stopped because of the chants but his request was denied.

Speaking on Koulibaly’s ban, Ancelotti said: “It [the racial abuse] shook him. He's a good-mannered player and he was bombarded by the stadium. Despite our requests and the chanting, the game wasn't suspended. I think it should have been. Next time we'll stop playing ourselves.”

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