Fan dies as clashes, racist chants wreck Italy football match

Napoli players argue with referee Paolo Mazzoleni after his controversial decision to show Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly a red card. AFP Photo

An Inter Milan fan died following clashes with Napoli supporters outside San Siro Stadium ahead of a Serie A game on Wednesday, which was also marred by racist chants.

Milan police chief Marcello Cardona said Thursday that investigators believe the 35-year-old fan, Daniele Belardinelli, may have been fatally struck by a van or SUV during the clashes.

Four Napoli fans were injured and at least three people arrested.

“You can’t die from going to the stadium to see a soccer match,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

Salvini added that he would gather club and fan representatives from all Serie A and B teams for a meeting to make sure “football returns to being a moment of fun and not violence. We’ll see if we can do what others weren’t able to.”

The game, which Inter won 1-0, was also marred by racist chants that targeted Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

On Thursday, the Italian league said Inter Milan would play their next two home matches behind closed doors as punishment for the racist chants.

The North Stand, where the “ultra” fans are based, will be closed for a further game.

But there was also punishment for Koulibaly, who will have to serve a two-match ban after he was sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee.

Koulibaly apologised on Twitter for being sent off, though adding: “I am proud of the colour of my skin. [Proud] to be French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man.”

Ronaldo speaks out on racism

After the game, Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti threatened to lead his team off the field the next time one of his players is subjected to continued racist abuse.

Ancelotti said he had asked several times for the match against Inter to be halted, and announcements warning fans this would happen were made but no further action was taken.

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo was among several players who took to social media after the game to condemn the racist abuse.

Next to a photo of him being marked by Koulibaly during a match between Napoli and Juventus earlier this season, Ronaldo wrote in Italian on Instagram: “In the world and in football there always needs to be education and respect. No to racism and to any sort of insult and discrimination!!!”

Meanwhile, Milan mayor Guiseppe Sala apologised to Koulibaly for the abuse, asking the 27-year-old for forgiveness.

“The boos aimed at Koulibaly were shameful,” Sala wrote on Facebook. “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 federation president Gabriele Gravina said the incidents that occurred inside and outside the stadium were “no longer tolerable” and that he intends to simplify the rules for suspending matches.

It’s not the first time that clashes between rival fans have led to deaths in Italy.

Napoli supporter Ciro Esposito died 50 days after he was shot by a Roma supporter before the 2014 Italian Cup final.

That incident came before a match that Roma was not even involved in – although Napoli’s 3-1 win over Fiorentina was held in Rome.

Also, police officer Filippo Raciti was killed during riots following a Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo in 2007. – AFP

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