Teenage Juventus striker Moise Kean, born in Italy to Ivorian parents, had to endure monkey chants from a section of Cagliari fans during a game Juve won 2-0.
After scoring his team’s second goal late in the match, the 19-year-old held his arms aloft in front of the home fans, which intensified the abuse.
“The best way to respond to racism,” he wrote on Instagram afterwards, aside a picture of himself with arms outstretched.
Teenager criticized by teammate
But Kean’s teammate Leonardo Bonucci said the striker had to take “50-50 of the blame.”
“Moise should not have done that and the Curva [fans] should not have reacted in that way,” the defender told Sky Sports Italia.
“Kean knows that when goals are scored he just has to think about cheering with the team, hugging them all together. It was an episode and even he knows he could have done something different.”
The Italian, 31, has since posted an Instagram story which said: “Regardless of everything, in any case … No to racism.”
But that did little to mask the widespread condemnation of his initial reaction.
“Bravo. Bonucci is lucky that I wasn’t there. Instead of defending you he does this? I am shocked,” he wrote, while Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba reposted Kean’s picture, with the caption: “I support every fight against racism, we’re all equal.”
‘Idiots who do stupid things’
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri had also criticized Kean for his celebration on Tuesday, but went on to say that the authorities did not want to tackle racism.
“He is a young man and he has to learn, but certain things from the crowd also shouldn’t be heard.”
In his post-match interview Allegri called those racially abusing Kean “idiots who do stupid things and ruin it for everyone else.”
“You need great intelligence to deal with these situations and should not go to provoke people. That, of course, does not mean the idiots in the crowd and the way they reacted should be justified,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think talking about it all the time helps. I don’t think halting play helps, because not everyone in the stadium did that.
“We need to use the cameras, find those who are doing it and punish them. It’s very simple, identify them and not one-year ban or two, just give them a lifetime ban.
“We’ve got the technology, it can be done if the authorities want to. The problem is, they don’t really want to.”
At the time of publishing, CNN had not received a response to requests for comment from the Italian Football Association, Serie A, Juventus or Cagliari.
Warning issued to crowd
Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini led the player protest to referee Piero Giacomelli, while Juve midfielder Blaise Matuidi — who complained last year that he was subject to racist abuse at the same stadium — also spoke to the referee and reportedly threatened to walk off.
Luca Ceppitelli, Cagliari captain, was also seen appealing directly to the home fans behind the goal for the offensive chants to stop.
Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini told Sky Italia: “We should avoid moralism. Kean was wrong as the Juventus players also said … if there were racist chants they must be condemned, of course.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said referees would be told to be “brave” and stop matches where there was racial abuse from fans.
“The moment a match is stopped, or it’s not played, I think that 90% of normal people in the stadium would kick the asses of those idiots,” said Ceferin.
Racism still a problem in football
Several incidents of racists abuse have been reported in English football this season, while last year the German Football Federation came under scrutiny after star player Mesut Özil, who has Turkish heritage, announced his retirement from international football for what he called a “feeling of racism and disrespect.”
Over the years, there have been a number of ugly incidents in Italian football.
In 2017, Ghanaian footballer Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch after hearing abuse while playing for Pescara.
“The fact that Bonucci called up the Curva, and you’ve got Cagliari’s president saying ‘I heard nothing’ shows that some sections of Italian football wants to turn a blind eye.
“There’s a good book “Football, Fascism and Fandom” which more or less states that the the Curva, or the ultras of Italian football, have very deep links to organized elements of Italian football and Italian football, to an extent, believes some of this is necessary to maintain the spirit or the atmosphere of Italian football — if you get rid of the more unsavory elements, you get rid of crowd chants in general.
“That’s unacceptable. That’s reprehensible. There needs to be some form of change where you understand that chanting at someone based on their skin color is completely different to chanting at someone because they play for a rival team.
“That’s a difference that needs to be made and that’s the difference Cagliari’s president, Bonucci and Allegri need to understand.”