Lazio have been hit with the suspended sentence of a partial stadium ban, after alleged incidents of racist abuse from visiting supporters during their Copa Italia semi-final second leg victory over AC Milan.
Joaquin Correa’s 58th minute strike, the only goal in either leg, was enough to book Lazio’s place in the final, but the football itself was quickly overshadowed with reports of vitriolic abuse directed towards Milan midfielders Tiemou Bakayoko and Franck Kessie.
As per Football Italia, the Curva Nord section of Stadio Olimpico – where much of the abuse is alleged to have taken place – is to be closed for one match. Since it is a suspended sentence, however, the closure will only actually come into effect should any further incidents come to the surface in the next 12 months.
There was also controversy surrounding banners held by Lazio fans commemorating former fascist leader Benito Mussolini, but the club were quick to distance themselves from the extremists among their support, blaming ‘isolated elements’ for incidents of racist abuse and any other behaviour which does not reflect the values of the club.
“Lazio takes clear distances from behaviour and events that do not reflect in any way the sporting values sustained and promoted by the club for 119 years,” the club said, via The Guardian.
“And it rejects and disputes the simplistic tendency of some media to consider the entire Lazio support jointly responsible for acts carried out by a few and isolated elements, for reasons foreign to any form of sporting passion.”
Some have called for harsher punishment when such incidents take place, but the suspended nature of the sentence means Lazio will be permitted to take a full allocation to the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta next month.
It is unfortunately not the first time this season that such incidents have come to light in Italian football. Juventus striker Moise Kean found himself on the receiving end of similar abuse when his side travelled to face Cagliari, with Serie A still investigating that incident.