A group of Lazio fans at the centre of a racial discrimination row claimed the allegations against them are “ridiculous”, but said it was time to put a stop to their “famous monkey noises” despite maintaining the chants had been misinterpreted.
The Curva Nord of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will be closed to Lazio’s most fanatical followers for Sunday’s Serie A opener against Udinese after persistent racial chants were reported during Sunday night’s 4-0 defeat in the Supercoppa against Juventus. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he welcomed the "firm stance" over the matter.
It is not the first time Lazio have been punished for the racially discriminatory behaviour of their fans: last year, the Olimpico was closed twice for Europa League matches due to fans’ misconduct.
However, a group of supporters claiming to represent the Curva Nord say they are simply being misinterpreted.
“It’s really ridiculous and disgraceful to accuse our Curva of racism,” a statement from the fans, which appeared in Gazzetta dello Sport, read. “We are a Curva who have never turned black lads away from our section and have always accepted the progressive rise in lads from different ethnic backgrounds emerging in our club, even making them become idols. Just look at [Fabio] Liverani, [Ousmane] Dabo, [Ogenyi] Onazi, [Michael] Ciani, [Djibril] Cisse etc.”
To prevent further issues, they say they will put an end to the chants that have got them in hot water time and time again.
“Our attempts to make people understand that the famous monkey noises are not offensive racial chants, but rather simple banter to irritate our opponents, have all been in vain,” the group said. “We will therefore ask our people to avoid using such monkey noises in future.”
Meanwhile, a senator from the city of Naples is to seek clarification as to what comes under the category of racism, claiming that his club is often insulted by rival fans in a manger that is similarly offensive but as yet unpunished.
“Since the season starts on Saturday, it would be nice to find out if the Lega Serie A will only be punishing racial insults relating to a person’s skin colour,” Antonio Gentile, secretary of the Italian senate, said in comments reported by Tuttosport. “Racism has got to be fought severely. The shameful remarks towards a capital of culture like Naples have always been tolerated by the Lega and we need to do something about this."
Gentile claims chants such as “Naples, Italy’s disgrace” and calling for the Vesuvius volcano to erupt and eliminate the city are equally offensive and racially discriminatory and should also be punishable.