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Italy continues fight against racism

Italian football is continuing to show its determination to fight discrimination as an 18-year-old amateur player has been handed a 10-match ban for racially abusing an opponent.

The Clusone player had racially insulted an opponent during his side’s game with Pontirolese after being the subject of a dangerous tackle. He was shown a red card and the referee included the incident in his match report.

As the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has implemented UEFA’s recommended punishment on racist abuse, the player will now have to serve a 10-game suspension, although Clusone president Valter Pianezzi told the Eco di Bergamo he felt that was excessive.

“What he did is condemnable, but we shouldn’t make him out to be a criminal,” he said. “It’s an exaggeration to ban a lad of his age for 10 games after he showed his regret and said sorry, but these are the new directives from the CONI and he’s been given the minimum punishment, for which we cannot even lodge an appeal.

“Something like this is frustrating for a club who try to bring up our players with principles and precise rules.”

The story emerges during a week in which UEFA is strengthening its stance on racism with its FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) Action Week. Videos were shown ahead of all Champions League and Europa League games this week, while the teams passed along an anti-racism pennant during the line-up ceremonies.

“We have already seen in certain countries ... where incidents have happened that the national associations have taken a very strong stance as UEFA is doing against racism,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told the governing body’s official website.

“We all felt it was important to send out a clear message of zero tolerance against racism. In this respect, the disciplinary regulations of UEFA have been amended -- and, as of this season, any player or official who is guilty of racist abuse will be banned for at least ten matches, or a corresponding period of time.”

Despite the campaign, there were unfortunate scenes in Russia as Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure was racially abused by spectators during his side’s 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow. Toure has called on UEFA to “be as strong as possible” and suggested a stadium ban as a potential punishment.

In Italy, the new UEFA guidelines are being enforced to the word, and stadium closures are now being used as a genuine threat.

AC Milan recently saw a full stadium closure overturned at the 11th hour after they appealed, but they -- along with Inter Milan, Roma and Torino -- have all been hit with suspended stadium bans as a result of discriminatory chanting.

Lazio, meanwhile, were forced to stage two Europa League matches behind closed doors last season, and they have a partial stadium closure for their next home game in Europe.

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