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'A grave defeat for football': Napoli slam Italian Football Federation after Koulibaly ban upheld

'A grave defeat for football': Napoli slam Italian Football Federation after Koulibaly ban upheld
Napoli have condemned the rejection of an appeal against a ban for Kalidou Koulibaly, who was sent off against Inter Milan last month for sarcastically applauding the referee after being targeted for racist abuse from fans.

Senegal defender Koulibaly saw red during a bad-tempered December 26 Serie A clash with Inter Milan in the San Siro, after being issued with a second yellow card for his gesture to referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni.

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The Neapolitan side issued an appeal against the two-match ban levied against the player, saying that he had been confronted with racist abuse from sections of the Inter supporters throughout the entirety of the game.

However, in response to the appeal the Italian Football Federation suggested that Koulibaly should have kept his composure and that they were concerned about setting a precedent regarding how players react to racist taunts, saying that "it could otherwise be used to justify any act of violence."

The statement further explains that the "unacceptable atmosphere that was created inside the stadium during the match has no relevance and cannot be considered justification for an athlete to mock the referee."

As a result Koulibaly will be absent from Sunday's game between Napoli and Lazio, prompting Napoli to release a furious statement of their own in response.

"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 official statement reads in part.

"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.

"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.

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"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."

The full statement can be read here.

Napoli estimate that more than 7,000 Inter Milan fans were involved in the racist chanting. The Italian football authorities handed Inter a two-match stadium ban as a result of the incident.

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