Match racist: Jeers stops soccer game in Italy

Match racist jeers: A soccer match between AC Milan and Roma was halted due to racist chants by fans. This was the first time a Serie A match was suspended due to racism.

REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng (L) and Mario Balotelli wait after their soccer match against AS Roma was suspended due to racist chants in Milan May 12, 2013.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was "appalled" when he learned that AC Milan's match against Roma was suspended because of racist chanting.

Sunday's game was stopped for 97 seconds during the second half when visiting Roma supporters would not stop chanting at Milan players Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

"Appalled to read about racist abuse in Serie A last night," Blatter tweeted Monday. "Tackling this issue is complex, but we're committed to action, not just words."

Blatter added that FIFA's taskforce against racism and discrimination is "serious about devising a unified approach for FIFA's 209 members."

Referee Gianluca Rocchi made the decision to suspend the match briefly after warnings issued over the stadium speaker system went unheeded. Roma captain Francesco Totti had also attempted to calm the fans to no avail.

Balotelli was born in Italy to Ghanian immigrants and is the star forward of Italy's national squad. Boateng was born in Germany to a German mother and a Ghanian father and plays for Ghana's national team.

The match at Milan's San Siro stadium ended 0-0.

Roma general director Franco Baldini contested whether the chants were racist.

"The boos were directed at Balotelli because he's a feared player," Baldini said, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport. "The nature of the chants was not clear. And I clearly heard the Milan fans chanting 'romano bastardo' — 'roman bastard' — which is just as discriminatory. It's difficult to figure out where the border is between racial discrimination or simple boos."

This was the first time a Serie A match was suspended due to racism.

In January, Boateng famously walked off the field with his teammates after enduring racist abuse during a friendly against a fourth-tier Italian club.

"The perception is still that in certain areas of the stadium you can do anything," Italian players' association president Damiano Tommasi said. "It's important to make those people feel more and more in the minority.

"The goal is to make people who behave poorly leave the stadium, although that's not simple for reasons of public safety," Tommasi added. "It's always a very fine line between penalizing the majority of people who go to the stadium to enjoy the show and punishing the minority who ruin it. It's not simple but it seems to me that yesterday everyone was in agreement with Rocchi's decision."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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