Zanetti issues racism warning

Inter Milan captain loses patience with Juventus fans ahead of showdown.

     Balotelli was the victim of racist chants from Juve fans last year [AFP]

    Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti has made it clear he will not tolerate any racial taunting against teammate Mario Balotelli ahead of Inter's visit to Juventus this weekend.

    Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete has already said the game could be stopped or briefly suspended if there is racist chanting and Zanetti has threatened to approach the referee to stop the match if the situation becomes out of control.

    "I will not hesitate to go to the referee and ask for the match to be stopped," the Argentine said.

    "Mario (Balotelli) is calm, he knows there is no defence against stupidity, he can do nothing about it."

    Bad intentions

    Racism is not a new problem in the Italy's Serie A.

    Juve were forced to play a game behind closed doors after fans chanted "a black Italian does not exist" at Palermo-born Balotelli - who is of Ghanaian descent - in the corresponding fixture last season.

    Last weekend, Juventus midfielder Mohamed Sissoko was on the receiving end of abuse from Cagliari fans, resulting in a $15,000 fine for the Sardinian club.

    Similar songs have been heard from Juve supporters in the run-up to the Inter game and the Turin-based club has already received a fine this season after fans sang racially offensive songs about Balotelli.

    Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has criticised the guilty fans for their previous chants, and backed the calls of Zanetti to stop the game if the chants are repeated.

    "(The chants) were deeply racist," he told Italy's Il Corriere dello Sport.

    "The Juventus directors have made acceptable statements to condemn them - I would have liked them to have been more comforting to the player.

    "Withdraw the team if they are repeated against us? Yes, I think the captain will do that."

    Balotelli spot

    Serie A fixtures

    Saturday December 5

     AC Milan v Sampdoria
     Juventus v Inter Milan

    Sunday December 6

     Bologna v Udinese
     Fiorentina v Atalanta
     Genoa v Parma
     Livorno v Chievo
     Napoli v Bari
     Palermo v Cagliari
     Roma v Lazio
     Siena v Catania

    Some of the sting may be taken out of the game if Balotelli, linked in the media with a move to English side Arsenal, is omitted from Inter's squad like he was for Sunday's 1-0 win over Fiorentina.

    However, an injury to Ricardo Quaresma, who made a rare start and impressed against Fiorentina, makes it more likely Balotelli will at least be named on the bench in Turin.

    Playmaker Wesley Sneijder, key to Mourinho's 4-3-1-2 formation, is struggling to shake off a thigh problem in time.

    Champions Inter have barely missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic since his departure to Barcelona earlier this year but Juventus have lacked width and urgency after winger Pavel Nedved's retirement in May.

    Third-placed Juve, who slipped eight points behind Inter after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Cagliari, have seen new Brazilian signings Diego and Felipe Melo fail to shine in midfield.

    Club president Jean Claude Blanc has given rookie coach Ciro Ferrara his backing despite constant changes to the formation.

    He has not been helped by injuries, with Vincenzo Iaquintaout and fellow strikers Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet short of fitness, while defender Giorgio Chiellini will wear a mask at the Stadio Olimpico to protect a broken nose.

    AC Milan, in second place, host Sampdoria earlier on Saturday hoping for a fifth straight league win and then a Juve victory.

    While the Juventus-Inter game is known as the derby of Italy, with Inter's rivalry with Juve matching if not surpassing that of Milan, another big grudge match takes place on Sunday.

    Mid-table AS Roma face Lazio looking to build on their pickup in form while their city rivals are a point above the drop zone as the decision to banish striker Goran Pandev for asking for a move continues to haunt them.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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