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Italy’s Interior Minister against stadium closures after racism row

Rome (AFP) – Far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Monday he opposed a knee-jerk reaction of stadium closures and match suspensions to tackle the recent spate of racism and violence in Italian football, calling for at risk matches to be played during the day.

Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was targeted by monkey noises and racist chants during a Serie A match against Inter Milan two weeks ago, while a 39-year-old fan was killed when he was struck by a car during heated clashes before the game.

“The closure of stadiums, the suspension of matches or a ban on fans travelling is a surrender of the State,” said Salvini after a round table talk in Rome aimed at strengthening security at stadiums.

“I’m in favour of holding supporters accountable by saying that whoever makes a mistake must pay.”

Salvini brought together police, sports federations, referees, coaches and supporters’ club representatives to discuss what measures needed to be taken after the violence of December 27 in Milan.

That evening, Franco-Senegalese defender Koulibaly was targeted by racist abuse which resulted in Inter being ordered to play two home matches behind closed doors as punishment.

The emotion is all the stronger in Italy as serious incidents also broke out outside the stadium, resulting in the death of a Inter supporter.

“We mustn’t confuse the fans who are 99.9 percent good people but who move in the same world of football as the thugs,” said Salvini, who insisted he wanted to “eradicate delinquency inside and outside stadiums.”

For this, he announced a “single law” on safety in sport with new measures to speed up and simplify outdated procedures “to achieve faster judgements”. 

“We need to authorise collective transfers of supporters because it’s easier to control the identity cards of 1,000 fans on a reserved train than 100 cars entering the city without any control,” continued Salvini.

The Minister added he favoured the programming of sensitive games in the afternoon rather than at night.

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