Gaetano Iannini of Italian fifth-division club FC Matera has been banned for ten matches for racially abusing an opposition player in a Coppa Italia match at the weekend.
Applying new rules introduced this season in a bid to clamp down on racism, the Italian Football League (Lega Calcio) has taken a stance against a player who is accused of “expressing racially discriminatory remarks to an opponent” in the 18th minute of Matera’s first-round cup defeat to Sudtirol.
The new article 11 of the Lega’s sporting code, introduced on June 4, sets out strict sanctions for players found guilty of any form of discrimination. Iannini is the first player to fall foul of the new rules, although it is not the first time that the player has overstepped the mark.
In June 2012, the midfielder was forbidden from setting foot in any sports venue for four years after confronting and threatening two police officers who were defending the referee of a game for his former club Casale.
He was permitted to continue his playing career on the condition that he formally communicated to the authorities every time he would be required to enter a football stadium, be it for training or a game.
Racist incidents continue to occur in Italy and the authorities are stepping up attempts to eradicate them from the game. Only recently, AC Milan player Kevin Constant left the field of play during a pre-season friendly match against Sassuolo after claiming he heard racial insults from the crowd.
His club were fined, even though an independent enquiry failed to find evidence of any discriminatory chants.
He followed the example of team mate Kevin-Prince Boateng, who last January walked off the field of play during a friendly encounter with Pro Patria.
That game was abandoned and referees now have powers to request the suspension of Serie A games should they perceive discriminatory behaviour from the fans. First, a warning announcement must be made over the public address system before the referee, if the problem persists, may then ask the local police authorities to declare the game abandoned.