Italy gov't minister opposes stopping matches for racism

ROME (AP) — Opposing views emerged at a summit of Italian soccer and government leaders on Monday following an outbreak of violence and racism surrounding a game in Milan last month.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced that he opposes suspending matches due to racist chants, while the Italian football federation said in a statement it wants to shorten and simplify the procedures for suspensions.

The Dec. 26 game was marred by racist chants aimed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

"Suspending matches for offensive chants is a slippery slope," Salvini said. "We risk putting the destiny of a lot of people in the hands of very few. ... Plus, it's difficult to find fair criteria for the decision."

Salvini's view comes in direct opposition to FIFA's "three-step process" for handling racism inside stadiums.

The FIFA process requires the referee to briefly pause a match at the first hint of discriminatory chants and request an announcement over the stadium public address system asking fans to stop.

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If the chanting persists, the referee can suspend the match and order the teams into the changing rooms until it stops. If that doesn't work, the referee can stop the match definitively.

Fan violence was also discussed after an Inter Milan supporter died following clashes with visiting Napoli fans outside the San Siro Stadium before the match.

Four fans have been arrested for their roles in the clashes and one of them has been charged with homicide.

Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina suggested bolstering the presence of security stewards at stadiums, removing fan barriers, and increasing crowd monitoring with the help of fan representatives.

Inter has been ordered to play its next two home matches in an empty stadium, plus a third home game with a partial closure of the San Siro.

Inter fans were also barred from traveling to a recent match at Empoli.

It's not the first time that clashes between rival fans have led to deaths in Italy.

Napoli supporter Ciro Esposito died 50 days after he was shot by a Roma supporter before the 2014 Italian Cup final. That incident came before a match that Roma was not even involved in — although Napoli's 3-1 win over Fiorentina was held in Rome.

Also, police officer Filippo Raciti was killed during riots following a Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo in 2007.

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