Napoli's Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly was subjected to racist taunting from Italian fans, an experience Argentine legend Diego Maradona knows about all too well.
Argentine football legend, Diego Armando Maradona, showed his support to Napoli's Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly on social media Sunday. Maradona, who played at S.S.C. Napoli between 1984-1991, showed his support for the Senegalese player who was subject to racist chants during a match between Napoli and Inter Milan last Wednesday.
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Maradona posted a photograph on his Instagram personal account with a Napoli jersey featuring the number 26 and Kalidou's last name, Koulibaly. "I played for seven years in Napoli, and I also suffered the racist songs of some fans," Maradona stated. The former World Cup winner added that whenever Napoli (a team from southern Italy) went to play in northern cities, there might be some "flags that said 'Welcome to Italy'," referencing the racism that some northerners subject their southern counterparts to.
In Italy, those kinds of chants and actions of discrimination are based on "territory," usually against Napolitans and southern Italians, and are treated with the same distinction as racism.
The Tifosi (the Italian name for football fans) from the Internazionale Milano team, directed racist chants against Senegalese player Kalidou Koulibaly during Wednesday's match, that Inter won 1-0, at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium. As a response, at the next match the following Saturday, Napoli's Tifosi donned Koulibaly masks and stated "We Are All Kalidou," in an impressive show of support for the vilified defender. Napoli subsequently won that match - 3-2 against Bologna.
Ho giocato sette anni con il Napoli e anch'io ho subito cori razzisti da alcune tifoserie. Ricordo ancora gli striscioni che recitavano "Benvenuti in Italia". Mi sento ancora più napoletano e oggi voglio essere vicino a @kkoulibaly26. Spero che questo episodio segni un punto di svolta, per eliminare una volta per tutte il razzismo dal calcio. Un saluto a tutti! #NoalRazzismo - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Yo jugué siete años en el Napoli, y también sufrí los cantos racistas de algunas hinchadas. Todavía me acuerdo de las banderas que decían "Bienvenidos a Italia". Yo me siento un napolitano más, y hoy quiero estar al lado de Kalidou Koulibaly. Espero que todo esto marque un antes y un después, para terminar de una vez con el racismo en el fútbol. Un saludo a todos! #NoalRacismo - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I played for seven years in Napoli, and I also suffered the racist songs of some fans. I still remember the flags that said "Welcome to Italy". I feel Neapolitan and today I want to be with Kalidou Koulibaly. I hope that all this helps to ends racism in football once and for all. Greetings to all! #NoRacism
Koulibaly was sent off during the game when he received a second yellow card. Napoli's manager, Carlo Ancelotti, defended the defender born in France to Senegalese parents after he was subjected to "monkey chants." The club had asked for the game to be suspended in three different occasions due to the abuse aimed at Koulibaly.
Maradona who wore the Napoli jersey for seven years winning two league titles (1987 and 1990) and a UEFA Cup title (1989), stated that he felt "Neapolitan and today I want to be with Kalidou Koulibaly," supporting him during these difficult moments.
This is not the first time these kinds of unacceptable discrimination appears in football matches. "I hope that all this helps to ends racism in football once and for all. Greetings to all! #NoRacism," concluded Maradona's message on his Instagram account.