AC Milan came back from a goal down to beat Udinese 3-2 on Saturday in a match which was briefly suspended for Mike Maignan being racially abused by home fans.
Mike Maignan and his AC Milan team-mates walked off the pitch briefly following abuse directed at the goalkeeper from the stands.— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) January 20, 2024
We all are with you, Mike! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ER2PnXs7pt
Stefano Pioli’s side are six points behind league leaders Inter Milan in third place after Noah Okafor poked home the winner in the third minute of stoppage time.
But the match was marred by monkey chanting directed at Maignan from a group of Udinese supporters which outraged the France goalkeeper.
Play was stopped late in the first half by referee Fabio Maresca after persistent racist abuse of Maignan, who stormed off the field alongside his teammates.
“There is absolutely no place in our game for racism: we are appalled. We are with you, Mike,” Milan wrote on social media.
The home crowd had previously been warned to stop the insults after Maignan had complained to Maresca, but they carried on and forced the officials to halt the match.
Play resumed after about five minutes, with Milan leading at that point thanks to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s fine finish just after the half-hour mark.
Home supporters continued booing Maignan every time he received the ball, annoyed at his complaints which led to the game being temporarily stopped.
Three minutes before the break Lazar Samardzic levelled for the hosts by strolling through midfield and rifling home.
Florian Thuavin put the hosts in front in the 62nd minute after bundling past Tijjani Reijnders and Theo Hernandez and smashing home a shot just above Maignan’s head.
However Milan fought back and Luka Jovic drew the away side level with a poacher’s goal in the 83rd minute, nodding home after Olivier Giroud’s deflected strike bounced onto the goal line off the underside of the bar.
And Okafor sparked wild celebrations from the large Milan contingent in Udine when he stabbed in the winner and extended his team’s unbeaten run in the league to six matches.
Saturday was not the first time that Maignan has been racially abused by supporters in Italy as he was targeted by a Juventus fan in September 2021.
Maignan described himself as “black and proud” after that incident, asking whether Italy’s football authorities knew what it was like “to hear insults and chants reducing us to animals”.
Italy, a country governed by a coalition led by the far-right Brothers of Italy party, is rife with fascist football fan groups, in particular among the hardcore “ultras” who make most of the atmosphere at stadiums.
Last week Lazio were hit with a one-match stand closure after supporters directed monkey chants at Romelu Lukaku during their team’s midweek Italian Cup win over local rivals Roma.
In November a suspended stand closure was handed to Fiorentina after their fans targeted Dusan Vlahovic, Moise Kean and Weston McKennie during a home defeat to Juventus.
Racism is so persistent that in August it caused the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to raise a “red flag” over abuse at sporting events.
The CERD asked Italy to take action against “racist acts during sports events, including physical and verbal attacks against athletes of African descent”.
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