An ugly chant was turned into a powerful symbol against racism as Inter Milan drew 0-0 with Sassuolo in front of an unusual San Siro crowd on Saturday.
It was the second of two matches Inter had to play behind closed doors as part of its punishment for racist chanting in the Dec. 26 league match against Napoli. The club, though, was allowed to let in more than 10,000 children from local schools in an initiative against discrimination.
“It was really nice because you heard the children’s shouts of joy,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. “It was nice to see them enjoying themselves.”
The initiative has been named BUU, an acronym for Brothers Universally United, and also the sound aimed by some Inter fans at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who was born in France to Senegalese parents.
Banners and signs with the acronym could be seen all over the stadium, while the players also had “BUU No to discrimination” on their shirt sleeves.
Inter, which is third in Serie A, moved four points behind second-placed Napoli, which will be without Senegal international Koulibaly for Sunday’s match against Lazio after he lost an appeal against his suspension for his sending-off in the defeat at Inter.
Napoli called the decision “a wasted opportunity” and “a sad defeat both for football and … the fight against discrimination.”
Koulibaly was sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee after a booking and told the Italian soccer federation’s appeals court that he had lost his concentration due to the racist abuse from the stands.
“Koulibaly’s ban should have been overturned regardless of the rules and the bureaucracy,” Napoli said. “All this does is kill football. Because football is above all a passion that unites billions of people around the world, and it should not be derided like this.
“A great opportunity has been missed. Sadly it proves there is still much to do and many things to change.”
The children made almost as much noise on Saturday as a sold-out San Siro.
There were plenty of chances for them to get excited about in an entertaining match but no goals to cheer.
Teenage midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo again showed why he is one of Serie A’s most promising talents as he inspired Roma to a 3-2 victory at home to Torino in a thriller.
Roma let slip a two-goal lead but recovered to inflict Torino’s first away defeat of the season and climb into fourth spot, a point above city rival Lazio.
The hosts took the lead with an impressive goal from the 19-year-old. He saw his first attempt parried by Salvatore Sirigu from close range but, having fallen to the ground, Zaniolo managed to pivot with the ball trapped under his boot and fire in the rebound.
Zaniolo showed fantastic skills throughout and was a constant thorn in Torino’s side.
Aleksandar Kolarov doubled Roma’s lead from the penalty spot in the 34th minute after substitute Stephan El Shaarawy was brought down by Sirigu.
Iago Falque hit the post for Torino with the last kick of the first half but the visitors pulled one back through Tomas Rincon six minutes after the break.
Torino made it 2-2 in the 67th with a splendid volley from Cristian Ansaldi following a poor clearance.
However, six minutes later, El Shaarawy pounced on a brilliant pass from Lorenzo Pellegrini and shot into the bottom corner to spare Roma’s blushes.
Gervinho won a penalty and scored a stunning goal to help Parma win 2-1 at Udinese.
The Ivory Coast international picked up the ball just outside his own penalty area and sprinted past several defenders before firing in off the post after 68 minutes.
Parma had taken an early lead after Rodrigo De Paul tripped Gervinho and a penalty was awarded on video review. Roberto Inglese deposited it into the bottom corner.
Former Parma forward Stefano Okaka leveled five minutes into the second half, in his first match for Udinese since arriving on loan from Watford.
Parma moved into ninth spot, three points off a Europa League berth, while Udinese remained five points off the relegation zone.