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Jan 7, 2013

Lazio chief: We are not a racist club

Claudio Lotito has defended Lazio after the club were once again accused of being racist just days after Kevin-Prince Boateng led Milan off the pitch following continued taunting of the midfielder.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Cagliari had to be briefly stopped due to monkey chants directed towards visiting player Victor Ibarbo. The referee paused the match in order to speak to both captains and for a message to be played over the stadium PA system warning fans the game would be stopped permanently should the chanting continue. However, the taunts came from a very small section of the crowd and were immediately drowned out by other Lazio fans.

Club president Lotito has worked extensively to rid the club of its ties with the far-right elements once so closely associated with Lazio, links which were once again subject to scrutiny following the violent attacks on Tottenham fans in a Rome bar ahead of their Europa League tie in November of last year - although it later emerged that Roma fans had been the involved in the attacks.

"This debate is taking a bad turn because Lazio get seen as a racist club and it is not," Lotito said. "Unfortunately we cannot control the attitude of individual fans, nor criminalise an entire group of supporters for the behaviour of a few dozen.

"We have to clarify this and punish only those incidents where the majority of the fans take part in racist behaviour. I worked hard to prevent this sort of thing happening and I can say our fan base has changed a lot since I took over as president.

"However, I cannot put a policeman on every fan when there are 30,000 in the stadium. The club has always distanced itself from certain behaviour with words and above all action, taking a strong hand against many fringe elements of the fan base."

Lazio have been among a number of Serie A clubs - including champions Juventus - who have worked with authorities to identify offenders and ensure they are prevented from entering stadia in the future.

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