According to reports from Milan, visiting Lazio fans have begun racially abusing AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko prior to kickoff of the Coppa Italia semifinal second leg at the San Siro, according to a report by Football Italia. Midfielder Franck Kessie was also reportedly a target, with the same fans filmed outside the stadium chanting racial abuse aimed at the player.
Lazio fans have taken particular aim at Bakayoko and Kessie after the pair was forced to apologize for mocking Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi by holding his jersey around during postmatch celebrations of a 1-0 AC Milan win over Lazio in Serie A play. Bakayoko and Acerbi had gone back and forth in the media during the buildup to the match.
“Harboring hatred is not sport but a sign of weakness,” Acerbi said after the match when he learned of the postmatch display by the two AC Milan players.
According to Football Italia, rules in the Italian top flight do not allow a referee to stop or postpone a match for racial abuse. That falls to the duties of the official in charge of public safety and security, not the match official.
In addition to the racial abuse, a group of around 50 Lazio ultras from the “Irriducibili” group traveled to nearby Piazzale Loreto to unveil a banner that read “Honour to Benito Mussolini” and make Nazi salutes.
There is political pretext for the group to make these displays. Piazzale Loreto is the location where Mussolini’s body was hung up in the final moments of World War 2, while Thursday marks the Festival of Liberation in Italy to celebrate the defeat of the fascist rule in Italy.
The stunt forced Deputy Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini – also an outspoken AC Milan supporter – to release a statement on social media.“No tolerance for any form of violence, whether physical or verbal. I thank the police force who are carefully monitoring the situation. Football must be an occasion to celebrate and meet up, not of brawls and clashes.”