Napoli released a blistering statement after Kalidou Koulibaly’s two-match ban, warning this was “a great opportunity missed to fight racism.”
The Senegal international was sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee during the defeat to Inter, having been targeted by racist abuse from the stands throughout the match.
This evening, his appeal to have the ban reduced was rejected, with the reason given that otherwise “the presence of racist behaviour in the stands could be used to justify and not sanction any act (even violence) by a player. Obviously, that cannot be allowed to stand as precedent.”
Napoli released their own statement in response via Communications Director Nicola Lombardo.
“With the rejection of the appeal against Koulibaly’s ban, we can comment on the extraordinary 23 days that have passed since Inter-Napoli.
“The rejection of our appeal is a grave defeat for football, but also for the bigger picture that this whole affair raised: the fight against discrimination of all kinds, which continue to be present in football and in our society.
“A battle that UEFA have been carrying on with Napoli’s support for many years has been humiliated. But the defeat is also for those who, mistakenly, maintain there is no racist in stadiums, that hurling abuse at black people, Neapolitans and Jews is only done by a handful of people.
“The days have been extraordinary because since San Siro there have been irregularities, misunderstandings, absurdities that were so obvious that they could not be ignored.
“Thousands of people (7,400 estimated by the Federal representative in the stadium) insulted Koulibaly because he is black. There were also frequent insults towards Neapolitans, with chants that everyone (except for a few) judge to be racist, so much that they are included in the protocol that demand the game is temporarily halted in these situations.
“Koulibaly asked referee Mazzoleni to interrupt play and the official replying ‘I won’t talk to you’ contravenes everything the designator Rizzoli had told us during a recent meeting in Milan between referees and Coaches, which is that the request to interrupt play must come from either the captain or the player subjected to abuse.
“UEFA and FIFA condemn what happened, saying the protocol was not respected and the game should’ve been stopped. Characters of all sorts, Mayors, artists, men of culture, colleagues of Koulibaly and Ancelotti (who carries on this battle of civility saying that what happens in Italy should be condemned) give their solidarity and express their disgust at the situation.
“Rarely in Italy have we seen such unanimous condemnation, even on a social level.
“And then the appeal, with judges who tell us they are fully aware of what happened, that they stand with Koulibaly as a man, who urge him not to give up or feel alone, the way this wonderfully honest gentleman said he felt that night.
“A man who told the judges his embarrassment at having to tell his parents, particularly his mother, what had happened.
“And then the extraordinary events conclude with the rejection of the appeal. There was one thing that had to be done: give Kalidou Koulibaly back the dignity that a lad from Senegal deserves, for all that happened, all the bad and all the good that is happening now in Italy.
“Koulibaly, football, the institutions, everyone emerges from this situation feeling humiliated. Removing Koulibaly’s ban should’ve been logical regardless of the regulations and red tape.
“Football dies in this world, because football is first and foremost passion, a passion that unites millions of people all over the world, and cannot be mocked in this manner.
“This evening, a great opportunity was missed. Unfortunately, we received confirmation that there is a lot still to be done and much still to be changed.”
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