After taking criticism for saying that a black teammate shared the blame for being subjected to racist taunts by opposing fans, Juventus’s Leonardo Bonucci issued a clarification Wednesday, claiming that the “abuses are not acceptable at all.” His teammate on the Italian soccer giant, Moise Kean, had made a point of standing in front of some of those fans after scoring a goal in a road game at Cagliari.
Kean, a 19-year-old considered by many to be a star on the rise, had increased Juventus’s lead to 2-0 in the 85th minute on Tuesday when he made it clear that he would not be intimidated by what he was hearing from the stands. However, Bonucci said after the match (via the BBC), “You celebrate goals with your teammates. He could have done it differently.”
“I think the blame is 50-50,” Bonucci continued. “Moise should not have done that and the Curva [fans] should not have reacted in that way.”
The manager of Juventus, Massimiliano Allegri, also appeared to place some of the blame on Kean, who was born in Italy to parents from the Ivory Coast. “He shouldn’t have celebrated in that manner,” said Allegri. “He is a young man and he has to learn, but certain things from the crowd also shouldn’t be heard.”
Among the reported taunts of Kean were specific sounds associated with racism and monkey noises. Cagliari fans have been accused of such behavior in the past and racist taunts at soccer matches are a persistent problem elsewhere in Italy and in other countries.
“I heard mostly boos, if they started making animal noises then we were in the wrong,” Cagliari President Tommaso Giulini said. “What happened at the end was because of a celebration which was wrong, and it would have happened with any other player.”
After Kean scored, Cagliari captain Luca Ceppitelli reportedly pleaded with his team’s fans to stop the taunts. Juventus’s Blaise Matuidi, who said last year that he was subjected to racial abuse at the same stadium, complained to the referee and threatened to walk off the pitch.
“Today I experienced racism during the match,” Matuidi said on Facebook after the match (via the AP). “Weak people try to intimidate with hate. I am not a hater and can only be sorry for those who set bad examples. Football is a way to spread equality, passion and inspiration and this is what I am here for. Peace.”
A striker who in 2016 was the first player born since the turn of the millennium to appear in a match in one of Europe’s top five leagues, Kean became last month the second-youngest player to score a goal for Italy. With Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo out with a thigh injury for the club’s past two matches, Kean stepped up with goals against Serie A foes Empoli and Cagliari.
“He’s a very positive figure,” Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini said Tuesday of Kean, “and he certainly didn’t deserve the insults he received.”
Raheem Sterling, who was among the England players who said they were racially taunted during a recent Euro 2020 qualifying win at Montenegro, took issue with Bonucci’s comments. In a social-media post Wednesday, he said of the phrase, “The blame is 50-50,” that “all you can do now is laugh.”
Previously, Sterling had shared a photo of himself cupping his ears in the direction of Montenegro fans after scoring a goal, adding the caption, “Best way to silence the haters (yeah I mean racists).” After the match, a 5-1 England win, he said (via CNN), “It’s 2019, I keep saying it, and it’s a shame to see this keeps going on.”
“Something has to be done, because we’re tired of always coming back to this same problem,” Yaya Toure, a former Manchester City and Barcelona star from the Ivory Coast, said Wednesday (via ESPN). Calling the comments by Bonucci and Allegri a “disgrace,” Toure said, “I think it’s the worst scenario you can have in football.
"Your teammate attacking you, saying things like that, is just unbelievable. I can’t imagine how hurt he was when he saw that.”
After Kean posted a photo Tuesday of his reaction to the Cagliari fans with the caption, “The best way to respond to racism,” Italian national team member Mario Balotelli replied with the comment, “And tell Bonucci that his luck is that I wasn’t there. Instead of defending you he does this? I’m shocked I swear. I love you brother!”
In February, Balotelli told an Italian TV show (via ESPN) that he encountered much worse racism in his home nation than in other countries in which he played. “In England, on a football level, I never saw anything like this,” said the former Inter Milan, Manchester City and Nice striker, currently with Marseille. “In France, I’ve not seen much — but no one is like Italy. In Italy, it is really extreme.”
Dutch national team member Memphis Depay tweeted at Bonucci on Wednesday, telling the Juventus player that he was “disappointed in your reaction” to Kean’s post-goal stance. “We Will not be quiet!” Depay said, adding the hashtag, “#SayNoToRacism.”
In a social-media post later on Wednesday that showed him with his arm around Kean, Bonucci said, “After 24 hours I want to clarify my feelings. Yesterday I was interviewed right at the end of the game, and my words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts. Hours and years wouldn’t be enough to talk about this topic.
“I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. The abuses are not acceptable at all and this must not be misunderstood.”
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