x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Racist abuse of Juan shows bigger punishments are needed

Then, as a fiery encounter unfolded, it became very audible: noises directed at Roma¿s black, Brazilian defender Juan from a section of the Lazio support.

The Roma defender Juan was targeted by Lazio fans during the Rome derby.
The Roma defender Juan was targeted by Lazio fans during the Rome derby.

The two main clubs in the Italian capital got together ahead of Sunday's Rome derby to promote an anti-racism initiative.

It was not the first time Roma or Lazio had done so as institutions, but it was a worthwhile act in a battle that needs to be sustained. In Italian football racist abuse from fans is still a problem, even deep into the new millennium.

The players wore T-shirts before the kick off to support the initiative. Then, as a fiery encounter unfolded, it became very audible: noises directed at Roma's black, Brazilian defender Juan from a section of the Lazio support.

Mauro Bergonzi, the referee, spoke to the Lazio captain Stefano Mauri about the problem and he gestured to the fans to stop. There was also an announcement that the referee would consider halting the game if it continued.

The abuse did die down, but it affected the player. Juan had even put his finger to his lips, an action directed at his insulters, and said afterwards: "This is the first time it has happened to me here."

In which case, he might be described as lucky. A reputation for xenophobia has trailed some of Lazio's ultras for many years and recent incidents, such as the abuse on Twitter of Djibril Cisse, the France striker who spent half this season there, when he left the club in January put Lazio's special infamy back in the spotlight.

It may be time for the threat of docked points to be waved against clubs whose followers continue to blithely offend against human dignity from the grandstands.