FIFA president: Racism in Italian stadiums 'very serious'

PARMA, Italy — FIFA president Gianni Infantino labeled the situation of racism inside Italian soccer stadiums "very serious" following the latest incident of offensive chants.

A 2-2 draw between Atalanta and Fiorentina on Sunday was suspended briefly during the first half due to racist chants.

The referee ordered a warning to be read over the stadium's loudspeaker after the chants were apparently made by Atalanta fans toward Fiorentina fullback Dalbert Henrique, a Brazilian player who is black.

Toward the half-hour mark, Dalbert stopped and glared at the direction where the chants appeared to come from, and he then spoke to the referee.

The address over the loudspeaker, warning that the match would not resume until the chants stopped, was met with whistles from the crowd.

Once the crowd calmed down, the match resumed after a break of several minutes.

Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan's Franck Kessie have also been targeted this season but no club has been punished by the league judge.

"Racism is combatted with education, condemnation and discussion," Infantino, head of world soccer's governing body FIFA, said on Italian state TV RAI. "You can't have racism in society or in football. In Italy the situation has not improved and this is very serious. You need to identify those responsible and throw them out of the stadiums. You need, as in England, the certainty of the penalty. You can't be afraid to condemn racists, we need to combat them until they stop."

Atalanta fans have been accused of racism before.

Last year, Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi questioned if UEFA cared about tackling racism after European soccer's governing body rejected his complaint that the Bergamo club's fans subjected him to abuse during a Europa League game in Italy.

Both Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella and Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said they didn't hear the chants.

"Nobody heard the chants," Gasperini said, according to the ANSA news agency. "But if some imbecile said something, that's different. It's serious, it happens in all the stadiums."

Atalanta, which is based in Bergamo, is playing in Parma while its stadium is being renovated.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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