Juve aims to tighten grip as racism rears ugly head
MILAN - Agence France-Presse
Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng (C) leaves the field during his team’s game against Pro Patria. The match was abandonned after Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini led his teammates off the pitch after racist chants from home fans. EPA photoChampion Juventus welcome Sampdoria on Jan. 6 looking to tighten its Serie A lead while Italian league officials reel from the latest racist incidents to mar the country’s stadiums.
Juventus went into the winter break with an eight-point cushion on Lazio after pre-Christmas title rivals Inter Milan was unexpectedly held at home by Genoa, with Fiorentina cementing third place with a 3-0 away win away to Palermo.
The winter break, for some, however, will not be remembered for goodwill.
During a friendly against Pro Patria, Milan’s Ghanaian midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng responded to racist chanting from some sections of the crowd in sensational fashion.
When it all got too much, he kicked the ball out, took off his shirt and left the pitch, to be followed by the rest of the Rossoneri. Boateng was backed up by AC Milan, who on Jan. 3 declared there is no room for racism in modern day football.
Ahead of its hosting of lowly Siena on Jan. 6, coach Massimiliano Allegri told acmilan.com: “These racist episodes have to end. Walking off was the correct decision to make after the racist chants. We have promised Pro Patria that we will come back but we had to give a strong signal against these episodes.
“I hope it helps set an example from the top leagues down. We had no other option but to walk off, which I hope will have repercussions. I sincerely hope these uncivilized acts do not occur again.”
Milan sits seventh, at 17 points behind Juventus, and will host Siena without one of their main Brazilian stars, Alexandre Pato, who signed for Corinthians on Jan. 3 for a reported fee of 15 million euros pending a medical.
Pato had been used sparingly by coach Massimiliano Allegri in recent months, leading to speculation that both he and compatriot Robinho, who shone for Milan prior to Christmas following recovery from injury, were on their way out.
Transfer talk has not spared city rival Inter, meanwhile.
Andrea Stramaccioni’s side is at nine points adrift having been only four shy of Juve in mid-December.
Despite having the edge, on paper, over Udinese, veteran Inter defender Javier Zanetti admits the game on Jan. 6 could be crucial as the nerazzurri go about closing the gap as well as challenging for the Italian Cup.
“It’s a big gap but you never know in football,” the Argentinian told inter.it.