The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has taken action after FC Messina Peloro defender Marco Zoro threatened to walk off after suffering racist abuse during the Serie A match against FC Internazionale Milano.
The 21-year-old picked up the ball and walked over to the fourth official in the 67th minute of yesterday's game in protest at the actions of some Inter supporters. The match was held up briefly while Inter forwards Obafemi Martins and Adriano reasoned with the tearful Zoro and urged him to continue, having themselves asked the Nerazzurri fans to stop.
"We are used to this kind of shameful behaviour but I cannot accept people coming to my home stadium to insult me," Zoro said. "I understood why Martins and Adriano tried to keep me on the pitch. I accepted it because it was a shame to call off the game and ruin Inter's result through no fault of my colleagues."
The FIGC, which is investigating the incidents, has already decided that every fixture in this week's Coppa Italia round of 16 as well as next weekend's Serie A calendar will kick off five minutes later than scheduled. Players will enter the stadiums with banners saying 'No al razzismo'.
Inter president Giacinto Facchetti has personally apologised to Zoro. The Italian media have also lent support to the Ivory Coast international's actions. "Zoro left his mark against racism," wrote Gazzetta dello Sport, while "A lesson from Zoro" was the headline from Corriere della Sera.
Walking off the pitch in protest at racist chanting has often been discussed as a possible response to abuse from the stands. Arsenal FC and France forward Thierry Henry appeared on English television on Saturday night to condemn racism in football but said he "wouldn't do that because it would not be fair to the game. I love the game too much."
Last month, UEFA gave full backing once again to the latest Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Action Week, highlighting initiatives aimed at stamping such behaviour out of the sport. European football's governing body and FARE are involved in a united and ongoing effort to rid the game of racism and discrimination.
However, there is still much to do. Witness the abuse directed at RCD Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kaméni in Sunday night's Primera División match at Club Atlético de Madrid. Kaméni admitted he was distracted by chanting during the 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital. The Cameroonian international said: "You want to play without distractions but this type of thing upsets you a little. Some people don't come just to support their team."
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