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Verona FC to play one-game stand closure after racist rants

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Verona fans cheer during the Italian Serie A football match against Napoli on Sunday. AFP

Verona FC to play one-game stand closure after racist rants

Verona will have to play one match without the backing of their hardcore fans after widespread racist chants during the weekend’s 2-1 loss to Napoli, Serie A said on Tuesday.

In a statement Serie A said that the Curva Sud section of the Stadio Bentegodi would be closed for a game after a significant number of Verona supporters in that stand chanted racist abuse at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen.

The closure of that section of the stadium, where Verona’s hardcore ultras stand, will be closed also because of chants against Napoli and the city of Naples which are considered in Italy to be “territorial discrimination”.

Naples is the biggest city in the south of Italy and often the target of chants which can be seen as racial in nature given the history of prejudice and discrimination afforded to southerners from wealthier northern Italy.

Verona’s ultras have a long track record of both anti-southern hate – causing outrage on the morning of the Napoli game by producing a banner which gave the coordinates of Naples as a bombing target for the Russian army – and outright racism towards black players.

They have aimed monkey chants at former Italy striker Mario Balotelli and AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, hung swastikas in the stands at the Bentegodi and in one bizarre incident in 2014 parked cars at a party for fans in such a way so that they made the shape of the Nazi symbol.

Some 20 years ago former club president Giambattista Pastorello said he wouldn’t sign a black player for the club because of the likely reaction from supporters.

Five years before that an effigy of black Dutchman Maickel Ferrier had been hung from the stands by fans wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods in protest at his potential – and subsequently aborted – signing for the club.

Verona’s next home game, against struggling Genoa, is scheduled for April 3.

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