Buenos Aires, Argentina | AFP | Diego Maradona has given his backing to Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly after the Senegalese international was subjected to racist abuse by Inter Milan supporters last week.
Argentina great Maradona, who won the Serie A title with Napoli in 1987 and 1990, posted a picture of himself on social media holding up Koulibaly’s No.26 shirt with a message of support for the player, who was targeted with monkey chants by Inter fans during Napoli’s 1-0 defeat at the San Siro on Wednesday.
“I played for Napoli for seven years and I also suffered from racist chants from some fans,” said Maradona, who is coach of Mexican second division outfit Dorados and adored by Napoli fans.
The 58-year-old, currently on holiday in Buenos Aires as the Mexican league is on a break, said he feels “even more Neapolitan today and that he wants “to be close to” Koulibaly.
“I hope this incident signals a turning point to eliminate, once and for all, racism from football.”
Maradona’s gesture of solidarity comes after thousands of Napoli fans wore Koulibaly masks in support of the 27-year-old during their side’s 3-2 win over Bologna on Saturday.
On Friday, European football governing body UEFA said its anti-racism protocol had not been followed during the match in which Koulibaly, who was also sent off, was abused.
Fans were asked three times over the loudspeaker to stop the abuse, but they ignored the pleas.
According to UEFA’s protocol, the match should have been suspended then but instead the game was allowed to continue.
The Italian league subsequently ordered Inter to play two home matches behind closed doors as punishment.