Lazio charged with racist fan behavior

Lazio fans show their support during a Serie A match against city rivals AS Roma in November 2012.

Story highlights

  • Lazio charged by UEFA over "alleged racist behavior" of fans during Europa League clash
  • Tottenham also charged over "crowd disturbances" during November's Group J tie
  • The charges continue a week where racism in Italian football has come under intense scrutiny
  • FIFA president criticizes AC Milan's decision to walk off after player was racially abused

Italian club Lazio has been charged over the "alleged racist behavior" of its fans during November's Europa League clash with Tottenham.

Supporters of the Rome side mocked the English team's links with the Jewish community by chanting "Juden Tottenham, Juden Tottenham" ("Tottenham Jews" in German) in the 0-0 draw in the Italian capital.

Tottenham has a large contingent of Jewish supporters, while Lazio has long had fans with right wing sympathies.

"Proceedings will also be instigated against S.S. Lazio for throwing of missiles and/or fireworks by their supporters, incidents of a non-sporting nature, late team arrival at the stadium, and late handling of the team sheet," European football's governing body UEFA said on Monday.

It added that Tottenham also faces charges related to crowd disturbances at the Group J game, which took place 24 hours after a knife attack on its fans in Rome.

It is not the first time this season that Lazio supporters have been accused of racism, with the club fined €40,000 (US$52,000) for abuse directed at Tottenham's black players during the clubs' previous meeting in London in September.

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The charges, which will be heard on January 24, continue a bad week for the standing of football in Italy, with the country's reputation having also been "damaged" in the eyes of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi after last week's racism walkoff involving AC Milan.

Former Ghana international Kevin-Prince Boateng made global headlines when he reacted to abusive chanting from a section of Pro Patria fans in a friendly against the fourth tier side by walking off the pitch -- and the entire Milan side followed him.

His actions earned widespread praise, including from Milan owner Berlusconi himself, but FIFA president Sepp Blatter is not among those who believe that Boateng's behavior was a step in the right direction.

"Walk off? That's not the solution," Blatter was reported to have said in Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

"I don't think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match. This is a very touchy subject, but there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium."

Despite his credibility on the topic having been damaged in the eyes of many pundits after he told CNN in 2011 that racism could be settled by a handshake, Blatter is now advocating tougher punishments to deal with the issue.

"The only solution is to be very harsh with the sanctions -- and the sanctions must be a deduction of points or something similar," he said on Sunday.

This is the first time that Blatter has publicly suggested a points deduction for clubs whose fans are racially abusive -- a stance which is backed by many figures within the game, including former Arsenal stars Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell.

Two days after Boateng walked off against Pro Patria, racism reared its ugly head again in Italy as some sections of Lazio's crowd were heard making monkey noises at Cagliari's black Colombian striker Victor Ibarbo.

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Although many of the crowd inside the Stadio Olimpico for the Serie A league clash jeered and whistled to drown out the racists, the referee was forced to halt play as he spoke to both team captains and ordered a message to be relayed over the PA system to warn fans that continued chanting would result in the game's suspension.

Late last week, former Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf warned that walking off pitches in protest at abusive chanting threatened to "empower" the racist minority.

Should Lazio be found guilty of the charges, pressure will fall on UEFA to take tough sanctions after the body was widely criticized for issuing what was seen as a paltry $105,000 fine to the Serbian FA after an Under-21 match where opposing England players said they were racially abused.

The punishment fell short of the $125,800 fine UEFA handed to Denmark international Nicklas Bendtner for exposing boxer shorts adorned with the logo of an online betting company during the 2012 European Championships.

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