'Grave defeat for football': Napoli furious as racism victim Koulibaly loses appeal

Milan (AFP) –


Serie A club Napoli have blasted an Italian football federation appeals court's decision to reject Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly's appeal against his two-match ban as "a great opportunity missed to fight racism".

French-born Koulibaly was targeted by monkey noises and racist chants in Napoli's 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan at the San Siro on December 26, before being sent off for sarcastically applauding referee Paolo Mazzoleni.

But an FIGC appeals court on Friday said it did not want to create a precedent where being subjected to racist abuse "could otherwise be used to justify any act of violence".

"(The) unacceptable atmosphere that was created inside the stadium during the match has no relevance and cannot be considered justification for an athlete to mock the referee," the FIGC said.

The 27-year-old had already missed Napoli's 3-2 win over Bologna on December 29, and will miss this weekend's game against Lazio.

"The rejection of our appeal is a grave defeat for football," Napoli said in a statement issued through spokesman Nicola Lombardo.

"A battle that UEFA have been carrying on -- with Napoli's support for many years -- has been humiliated.

"But the defeat is also for those who, mistakenly, maintain there is no racism in stadiums, that hurling abuse at black people, Neapolitans and Jews is only done by a handful of people.

"Thousands of people (7,400 estimated by the Federal representative in the stadium) insulted Koulibaly because he is black.

"Koulibaly, football, the institutions, everyone emerges from this situation feeling humiliated. Removing Koulibaly's ban should have been logical regardless of the regulations and red tape.

"UEFA and FIFA condemn what happened, saying the protocol was not respected and the game should have been stopped.

?And then the appeal, with judges who tell us they are fully aware of what happened, that they stand with Koulibaly as a man, who urge him not to give up or feel alone, the way this wonderfully honest gentleman said he felt that night."

In their emotional statement, Napoli added that their player had been stripped of his dignity.

"There was one thing that had to be done: give Kalidou Koulibaly back the dignity that a lad from Senegal deserves, for all that happened, all the bad and all the good that is happening now in Italy.

"This evening, a great opportunity was missed. Unfortunately, we received confirmation that there is a lot still to be done and much still to be changed."