Koulibaly appeal, a wasted opportunity

Koulibaly appeal, a wasted opportunity

Notizie | 18/01/2019

Today's dismissal of Kalidou Koulibaly's appeal brings to a close a most extraordinary 23 days since Inter v Napoli.

The decision of the FIGC appeals court to turn down our appeal against Koulibaly's ban is a sad defeat both for football and the wider issue raised by this whole affair, namely, the fight against discrimination of all sorts, which is still part of football and society. A battle that UEFA has been fighting for years – and which Napoli has always supported – has thus been degraded. Yet it is also a defeat for the people who, wrongfully, maintain that racism isn't an issue at stadiums, and that those hurling abuse at blacks, Neapolitans, Jews or whomever are a tiny minority.

It has been an extraordinary 23 days because, since that match at the San Siro, there have been irregularities, misunderstandings and absurdities so serious and grotesque that they simply cannot go unnoticed.

Thousands of people (7,400 according to the FIGC prosecution's representatives pitchside) insulted Koulibaly because of the colour of his skin; there have also been frequent insults aimed at Neapolitans, with chants described by almost everyone as racist, to the point that they are now listed in the protocol for suspending matches in such scenarios.

Koulibaly asked Paolo Mazzoleni to suspend the match and the referee said, 'I'm not talking to you', which runs contrary to what Serie A referee designator Nicola Rizzoli told us in a recent meeting in Milan between referees and coaches – that a request to suspend the match can be made either by the captain or the interested party, who in this case was Koulibaly.

UEFA and FIFA have condemned what happened, saying that protocol was not respected and that the match should have been suspended. All manner of public figures, from mayors to artists, footballers and coaches have offered their solidarity while expressing their indignation.

Rarely in Italy have we witnessed such unanimous condemnation from society as a whole.

Then there was the appeal itself, where the judges said they are completely aware of what happened and that they are on Koulibaly's side as a man. They encouraged him not to give up or feel alone, which, he explained, in a sincere and moving speech, is how he felt that evening. Just as he explained to the judges how embarrassed he felt when he had to tell his parents, and his mother in particular, what had happened.

After all these extraordinary events, the appeal was turned down. A procedural rule was incapable of doing the only thing there was to do: give back to Kalidou Koulibaly – this Senegalese lad who, in light of these events, represents everything that is good and bad in Italy at the moment – the dignity he deserves.
Koulibaly, Italian football and the institutions all come out of this degraded. Koulibaly's ban should have been overturned regardless of the rules and the bureaucracy. All this does is kill football. Because football is above all a passion that unites billions of people around the world, and it should not be derided like this.

A great opportunity has been missed today. Sadly it proves there is still much to do and many things to change.