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Inter launch anti-racism campaign as schoolchildren watch goalless draw

Milan (AFP) – Inter Milan launched their anti-racism campaign in reaction to last month’s abuse of Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly as 11,000 local schoolchildren watched a goalless draw with Sassuolo at the San Siro on Saturday.

Inter Milan were ordered to play two matches behind closed doors as punishment for racist chants and monkey noises directed at Napoli’s Koulibaly on December 26.

Luciano Spalletti’s side responded, with permission from Serie A, by inviting children from local schools to the stadium as they launched their ‘BUU’ initiative, aimed at turning the chant into an acronym for ‘Brothers Universally United’.

“With the BUU — Brothers Universally United campaign, Inter wanted to send out a strong message,” said club chief executive Giuseppe Marotta. 

“It’s an initiative that demonstrates how much the club cares about certain values.”

But on the pitch it was a drab affair as Inter were pegged back by their midtable rivals as they missed the chance to close in on second-placed Napoli, only escaping with a point thanks to superb saves by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

“You could hear these children shouting, the sound of kids enjoying any situation that was happening,” said Spalletti.

“They weren’t all Inter supporters, there were kids who like other teams too, but they were all enjoying the occasion.”

Inter, coming off three consecutive wins, struggled to create any chances with captain Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic both wasteful in front of goal.

Handanovic came to the rescue twice — saving a Kevin-Price Boateng header after the break, and again in injury time, denying Jeremie Boga.

Inter Milan are now four points behind Napoli who host Lazio on Monday, without Koulibaly after he lost his appeal against a two-match ban imposed for his sending off during that defeat by Inter.

– El Shaarawy lifts Roma –

Earlier, Roma maintained their return to form by holding on for a 3-2 win over Torino to move into the Champions League places.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are seven points behind Inter after Stephan El Shaarawy struck the winner following a Torino rally from two goals down.

El Shaarawy fired in the winner midway through the second half, after coming on as a substitute in the sixth minute for injured Turkish winger Cengiz Under and watching his side throw away a two-goal half-time lead in the second period.

Roma overtook city rivals Lazio to move into fourth place, the final Champions League berth, with 33 points from 20 games — 20 points behind leaders Juventus.

Roma looked to be cruising when promising teenager Nicolo Zaniolo opened the scoring in the 14th minute at the Stadio Olimpico and Aleksandar Kolarov added the second from the spot 20 minutes later after Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu brought down El Shaarawy.

But Torino fought back after the break, with Tomas Rincon curling in a fine goal in the 51st minute and Christian Ansaldi volleying home to pull Walter Mazzarri’s side level 16 minutes later.

Roma bagged the three points thanks to El Shaarawy, who was sent through by Lorenzo Pellegrini and fired home the winner in the 73rd minute to inflict a first away defeat on ninth-placed Torino.

“It was an important and hard-fought victory,” said El Shaarawy, after the capital club claimed a third straight league win for the second time this season.

“It’s a shame that we conceded those two goals, but it was a win we earned with heart.”

Elsewhere, former Arsenal winger Gervinho again struck the winner as promoted Parma beat Udinese 2-1 to move three points off the Europa League places.

Juventus — fresh from winning a record eighth Italian Super Cup trophy in midweek against AC Milan thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in Saudi Arabia — host bottom team Chievo on Monday as Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan travel to Genoa.

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