MILAN (AP) — Serie A club Udinese has identified a fan who racially abused AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan and banned him for life as it vowed to do the same for the other “evil people” amid calls for tougher sanctions from authorities following another weekend when Italian soccer games were overshadowed by fan misbehavior.
Maignan, who is Black, walked off the field during Saturday’s Serie A match at Udinese after being subjected to what he later said were monkey noises. The 28-year-old goalkeeper was joined by his teammates and the match was suspended for about five minutes before they returned, and Milan went on to win 3-2.
“In a joint effort with the local police authorities and utilizing the Bluenergy Stadium security cameras, Udinese Calcio has identified the first individual responsible for discriminatory behavior towards AC Milan player Mike Maignan,” Udinese said in a statement on Monday.
“This person will face a lifetime ban from attending any Udinese Calcio matches. This ban is effective immediately. We believe that such strong measures are necessary to send a clear message that racism has no place in football or society.”
A decision from the Italian sporting judge on Udinese’s punishment is expected on Tuesday. Earlier this month, Lazio was sanctioned with a one-match partial stadium closure for racist chants directed at Romelu Lukaku.
Authorities can also issues orders — known as a Daspo — banning individuals from stadiums for a maximum of five years.
“We’re working to go in search of those responsible, there can only be two or three people. There were no chants, in that they weren’t perceived by either the referee or the prosecutor’s office. There were one, two, three evil people, and this is enough for it to be a very serious thing,” Udinese general manager Franco Collavino said earlier on Monday, before the first supporter was identified.
“We have already started looking at the images from the stadium cameras, we also have to listen to the audio. … A Daspo has a limited duration, but the club can decide to ban a fan from a stadium for a longer period of time. We will work to ban them from the stadium forever, for life.”
Maignan received widespread support from the soccer world following the abuse and issued a statement on Sunday calling for authorities to take stronger action.
His stance was backed by Umberto Calcagno, the head of the players’ association in Italy.
“Fighting this form of ignorance is very difficult but today it’s possible thanks to the federation’s rules, as what happened on Saturday,” Calcagno said. “There was great collaboration between Mike Maignan, the referee and the players.
“But the rules also allow the public authorities to decide to definitively suspend the match. … Today it is necessary to punish such matters in a more severe manner.”
There is already a three-step process in place where a match can be stopped twice before being abandoned, but FIFA President Gianni Infantino suggested over the weekend that any team whose fans racially abuse players should automatically forfeit the game.
“If the president of FIFA believes this idea can be transformed into a rule, he can do it, we will adapt to the guiding principles FIFA suggests,” Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina said. “Stopping a match is a strong message, but abandoning a soccer match with thousands of fans inside the stadium is a problem of public order, it’s not up to us and we don’t want to replace those who have the task, the duty and the right to manage public order.”
There have been numerous racist incidents in Italian and European soccer for years, with cases in Italy aimed at Kevin-Prince Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Lukaku among others.
Calcagno said that half of the abuse soccer players are subjected to is of a racist nature but Saturday’s incident at Udinese was not the only noteworthy episode in Serie A over the weekend.
A potentially dangerous moment in Salerno was turned into a more lighthearted one after Salernitana fans threw objects at Genoa players as they celebrated Mateo Retegui’s equalizer.
Retegui sparked concern when he dropped to the ground after being hit by an object. However, it turned out to be a chocolate snack and teammate Kevin Strootman responded by picking it up, eating it, and mockingly thanking the crowd. Genoa went on to win 2-1.
“We celebrated in front of their fans, they threw a few things but that happens in soccer, no one was hurt so that’s fine,” Strootman said.
More worryingly, a piece of cement was also thrown from the stands. It did not hit anyone but was given to the referee and Salernitana could also face punishment on Tuesday.
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