Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Racism, fraud keep plaguing Italian soccer

Reuters, ROME and MILAN

The Italian Football Federation has opened an investigation into alleged racist chanting after AC Milan midfielder Kevin Constant fired a ball into the stands and walked off the pitch in protest during a match on Tuesday.

The walkout by the French-born Guinean player during a pre-season tournament match against US Sassuolo comes just months after a similar incident involving Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Boateng led the team off the pitch during a friendly in January in protest of racist chanting by lower-division side Pro Patria fans.

Constant was replaced during Tuesday’s game, which Milan went on to lose 2-1.

Milan CEO Adriano Galliani condemned the abusive fans, but said Constant should not have walked off the pitch.

“Racism has no alibis, not if those of a distorted mind believe that men should be divided because of the color of their skin or because of their nationality,” the club said in a statement published on their Web site.

The Sassuolo side also condemned any type of racism, hoping that the investigation would pinpoint those responsible. They stressed that the incident was not a reflection of the club’s fans, who they say usually behave in a supportive and hospitable manner.

Sassuolo are about to begin their first season in Serie A after winning the second-tier title.

Italy has a serious problem with discrimination in soccer that shows no sign of being eradicated, despite renewed efforts from authorities.

It also has problems with corruption, with a prosecutor in a match-fixing trial on Wednesday arguing for a four-and-a-half-year ban for SS Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, who stands accused of sporting fraud along with seven other players.

Stefano Palazzi, prosecutor for Italy’s soccer tribunal, said Lazio should be docked six points and fined 20,000 euros (US$26,400), while Genoa and lower-division side Lecce should lose three points each for “objective liability” in the case, the federation said.

The trial relates to Coppa Italia winners Lazio’s final two matches of the 2010-2011 season, when they beat Genoa 4-2 at home and Lecce by the same score away.

Palazzi asked for three-and-a-half-year suspensions for Padova’s Omar Milanetto, SSC Napoli goalkeeper Antonio Rosati — currently on loan at Sassuolo — as well as Lecce’s Stefano Ferrario and Massimiliano Benassi.

Former ’keeper Mario Cassano should be given a one-year ban and centerback Alessandro Zamperini two years in addition to the five-year suspensions they got last year in different cases, Palazzi said.

During investigations last year, Cremona Ciminal Court prosecutor Roberto di Martino said there was an “absolute super abundance” of evidence of corruption at the Lecce-Lazio match.

He said gamblers had apparently won about 2 million euros on the game and paid 600,000 euros in bribes to the players.

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