AC Milan’s match on Sunday was halted by racist jeers, directed at striker Mario Balotelli, and created a hostile environment.
AC Milan was fighting for a spot in the lucrative Champions League, but the away game against AS Roma had plenty of tense moment inside, and outside, of the pitch. The match against the two Serie A rivals featured two players sent off and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
AC Milan’s attempts to collect three points with a win were dealt a blow by the 41st minute of play as central midfielder Sulley Ali Muntari was shown a red card following a bad challenge by Balotelli that earned the striker a yellow card. Muntari apparently made contact with a referee, which led to his ejection, the Daily Mail reports.
At the start of the second half of play, monkey noises, directed at the black players of AC Milan and specifically at Balotelli, led to play being halted by referee Gianluca Rocchi. To prevent racist jeering toward players, the Italian Football Federation created new rules that would temporarily stop the game while a warning is issued over the PA system, Reuters notes.
Balotelli previously had some strong words for racist fans, threatening to “kill” anyone who throws a banana at him during the Euro 2012 finals as he suited up for Italy’s national team.
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The game resumed after the temporary stoppage, and, despite the man advantage, AS Roma could not convert, and the team’s captain, Francesco Totti, was given a red card for an elbow in the 90th minute of play.
On Twitter, FIFA President Sepp Blatter apologized for the racist jeering during the game. Blatter said, “Appalled to read about racist abuse in Serie A last night. Tackling this issue is complex, but we’re committed to action, not just words.” Blatter also tweeted out a link to FIFA’s recent efforts to curb racism and discrimination in the game.
AC Milan, currently third in Serie A, is fighting to keep its place in the top three as ACF Fiorentina beat Palermo on Sunday 1-0, moving with two points of Milan. Only the top three finishers in Serie A, currently Juventus, Napoli and Milan, qualify for the Champions League.
If the Serie A standings hold, Juventus and Napoli would automatically qualify for a spot in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, while AC Milan would have to win a two-legged qualifying round to advance to the group stages. Milan and Fiorentina each have one game left, and, if the teams are tied in the standings -- Milan currently has 69 points, while Fiorentina has 67 -- the team from Florence would advance to the Champions League.