Napoli slams referee, Italian federation for Koulibaly ban

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Napoli has released a blistering statement condemning the referee’s actions from the 1-0 loss to Inter last month, and slammed the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for its decision to uphold Koulibaly’s two-match suspension, which was handed down on Friday.

Napoli argued that the appeal was excessive given the racist abuse Koulibaly faced during the match along with the referee’s refusal to stop the match, a move which UEFA has since condemned. The FIGC denied the appeal, stating that a reduction of his suspension would set an unwanted precedent. If they had granted the appeal, “the presence of racist behavior in the stands could be used to justify any act by a player,” the appeals court claimed in its decision.

Napoli responded by calling the decision “extraordinary” and said “Koulibaly, football, and society all come out embarrassed by this decision. Reversing Koulibaly’s suspension had to be done regardless of the regulations and red tape. In this way, football dies, because football is above all things passion, a passion that unites billions of people all over the world, and that can not be mocked in this way.”

The lengthy statement was released in the aftermath of the failed appeal, lodged by Napoli with the hopes of reducing the defender’s two-match suspension he received for a red card near the end of the match against Inter. Koulibaly was sent off by referee Paolo Mazzoleni after sarcastically applauding a yellow card he received. Players on the field confirmed that Koulibaly asked the referee to stop the match due to the racist chants, but he refused.

“Koulibaly asked referee Mazzoleni to interrupt play,” Napoli explained in the statement, “and the official replied, ‘I won’t talk to you’ which contravenes everything the designator [Nicola] Rizzoli had told us during a recent meeting in Milan, which is that the request to interrupt play must come from either the captain or the player subjected to abuse.”

Napoli claimed that reducing Koulibaly’s suspension would be a decision that rose above legal precedent, instead setting a benchmark for decency and admitting there was wrongdoing. “Tonight a great opportunity has been missed. We have unfortunately confirmed that there is a lot to do and a lot to change.”

Inter did receive a two-match stadium ban as a punishment for the racial abuse by the home fans that led to the incident.