Racism taking away the fun in Italian league

Racism in Serie A has become an ugly trend that won’t just go away despite FIFA’s call for love, understanding and tolerance among football lovers.

Ciro Immobile and Lazio started the new year 2020 with heads high, having ended 2019 as strong contenders for Serie A top four.

Immobile scored twice to help his side to a ninth straight Serie A victory but the match was blighted by yet another incident of racism in Italian soccer.

Third-place Lazio fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 at 10-man Brescia in stoppage time on Sunday and move to within three points of the top two, Juventus and Inter Milan. Mario Balotelli had scored the opener but was twice the target of racist chanting by Lazio fans. On the second occasion the match was halted for a few minutes and an announcement made at the stadium, while Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi gesticulated to the visiting fans to stop the chants.

Balotelli posted a video of his goal on Instagram after the match and wrote: “Lazio fans that were today at the stadium SHAME ON YOU!”

Nonetheless, Immobile became the first player since Inter Milan’s Antonio Valentin Angelillo in 1959 to score 19 goals in his first 17 Italian league matches of the season.

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Lazio’s ninth consecutive Serie A win matched a club record set in 1998-99. The capital side also beat Juventus in December to win the Italian Super Cup before the winter break. In contrast, Brescia is languishing in the relegation zone but it took the lead in the 18th minute, against the run of play, when Balotelli turned in Stefano Sabella’s ball over the top.

However, Brescia’s chances of a first win in three matches diminished shortly before the break when Andrea Cistana was sent off for hauling down Felipe Caicedo and Immobile converted the resulting penalty.

Even with 10 men, Brescia continued to play well and looked set to hold on for a point before Immobile fired in a ball from Caicedo in added time. Immobile’s former teammate, Andrea Belotti, also scored twice to help his Torino team to a surprise 2-0 win at fourth-place Roma

Belotti, who also hit the woodwork twice, broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time, smashing Tomás Rincón’s pass into the roof of the net. Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu had pulled off a number of saves in the first half and he preserved his side’s lead after the interval on several occasions.

Belotti secured the result with a penalty four minutes from time after Chris Smalling handled the ball. They were Belotti’s first goals in two months and helped Torino move up to ninth ahead of Monday’s matches.