Diego Maradona says he suffered racist abuse when he played in Italy
Diego Maradona has showed his support for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and said he too suffered racial abuse when he played in Serie A.
Koulibaly was the victim of monkey chants from Inter Milan fans during his side's 1-0 defeat to the Nerazzurri at the San Siro on Boxing Day.
As a result, Inter have been ordered to play two games behind closed doors while there has been widespread condemnation of the latest incident of racial discrimination in Italian football, but Maradona said it is nothing new and the concept of territorial discrimination existed when he was playing for Napoli.
"I played for seven years in Napoli, and I also suffered the racist songs of some fans," Maradona wrote on Instagram. "I still remember the flags that said 'Welcome to Italy'. I feel Neapolitan and today I want to be with Kalidou Koulibaly.
"I hope that all this helps to ends racism in football once and for all."
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Ho giocato sette anni con il Napoli e anch'io ho subito cori razzisti da alcune tifoserie. Ricordo ancora gli striscioni che recitavano "Benvenuti in Italia". Mi sento ancora più napoletano e oggi voglio essere vicino a @kkoulibaly26. Spero che questo episodio segni un punto di svolta, per eliminare una volta per tutte il razzismo dal calcio. Un saluto a tutti! #NoalRazzismo - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Yo jugué siete años en el Napoli, y también sufrí los cantos racistas de algunas hinchadas. Todavía me acuerdo de las banderas que decían "Bienvenidos a Italia". Yo me siento un napolitano más, y hoy quiero estar al lado de Kalidou Koulibaly. Espero que todo esto marque un antes y un después, para terminar de una vez con el racismo en el fútbol. Un saludo a todos! #NoalRacismo - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I played for seven years in Napoli, and I also suffered the racist songs of some fans. I still remember the flags that said "Welcome to Italy". I feel Neapolitan and today I want to be with Kalidou Koulibaly. I hope that all this helps to ends racism in football once and for all. Greetings to all! #NoRacism
Naples and cities south of Rome are considered by many in the north of Italy as not belonging to the same country, evidencing a north/south divide which can also be seen in the success of the right-wing, regionalist Lega Nord political party.
That party, led by the interior minister Matteo Salvini, only recently rebranded themselves as Lega, dropping the inference to the north in its name, with Salvini beginning to embrace those who live in the southern half of Italy and attracting votes from them by condemning the flow of immigrants and refugees in the country -- a topic which, due to geographical reasons, is more of an issue in the south.
At the weekend, Salvini dismissed the territorially discriminatory chanting that Maradona is referring to as "banter" and said this should not be a punishable offence.
In the recent past, Juventus and Roma have both been forced to close sections of their stadiums due to territorial discrimination aimed at Napoli supporters and Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said that the next time he hears any discrimination, he will tell his team to leave the pitch.