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Maignan Blasts ‘Ignorant’ Fans after Racist Abuse in Milan Win at Udinese

REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini
Soccer Football – Serie A – Udinese v AC Milan – Dacia Arena, Udine, Italy – January 20, 2024 AC Milan’s Mike Maignan applauds fans after the match

Mike Maignan fired back on Saturday at “ignorant” fans who aimed monkey chants at the France goalkeeper during AC Milan’s dramatic 3-2 win at Udinese which was temporarily halted due to the abuse.

Milan are six points behind league leaders Inter Milan, who are in Saudi Arabia contesting the Italian Super Cup, in third place after Noah Okafor poked home the winner in the third minute of stoppage time.

But the match was marred by a group of Udinese supporters racially abusing Maignan during the first half, leading to referee Fabio Maresca stopping play and a livid Maignan storming down the tunnel with his teammates.

Talking to Sky Sport, Maignan said that he first heard monkey chants when he collected the ball for his first goal kick, after which he “said nothing”.

“Then for the second goal kick they did it again. I called to the dugout and the fourth official and I told them what had happened. I said that we can’t play in these conditions because it’s not the first time that it’s happened with me or other players,” he said.

“They’re ignorant people… You can be booed or whistled when you’re away from home, that’s normal, but what happened today has no place in football.”

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.

But after the match restarted Milan were clearly rocked and three minutes before the break Lazar Samardzic levelled for the hosts by strolling through midfield and rifling home an unstoppable low shot.

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 nodded home the equaliser in the 83rd minute 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 at the Bluenergy Stadium when he stabbed in the winner and extended his team’s unbeaten run in the league to six matches.

Fan racism

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 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.

Earlier Daniele De Rossi got off to a winning start to life as Jose Mourinho’s successor at Roma after his boyhood club beat struggling Verona 2-1 at an emotional Stadio Olimpico.

First-half goals from Lukaku and Lorenzo Pellegrini were just enough for Roma, who are eighth in Serie A, to get past Verona and give De Rossi a tight debut win after taking over on Tuesday.

Roma took advantage of fourth-placed Fiorentina not playing a league fixture this weekend due to their Italian Super Cup commitments in Saudi Arabia by moving to within two points of the Champions League positions.