Leonardo has spoken about what happened on Wednesday night with regards to the racism aimed at Bakayoko and Kessié, and demanded respect.
Milan lost 1-0 to Lazio and got kicked out of the Coppa on Wednesday, but the real story from that evening was the disgusting racism shown by a group of Lazio fans.
Those Lazio fans sang racist choirs against Tiémoué Bakayoko and Franck Kessié, brought inflatable bananas with them to the pitch, and made monkey sounds before, during and after the game. The referee, however, did nothing about it, and the media coverage has been relatively silent compared to how it was when Bakayoko and Kessié celebrated with the jersey of Francesco Acerbi after the win of Milan over Lazio in Serie A.
The Rossoneri posted an official statement on their website last night regarding the incident, and Leonardo gave an interview to this morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport to break his silence.
“Where do we start? From two premises. First, I am not talking because we lost – Lazio won on the field and deserved the final. Second, after the story of the Acerbi jersey, we intervened to resolve the case but we avoided any public statement to favor a more serene approach to the Coppa Italia match,” the Brazilian Leonardo told the Milano-based pink newspaper.
“The Bakayoko-Kessié-Acerbi case? [Celebrating with Acerbi’s shirt was] a serious mistake, which we immediately recognized. But it’s the only incident that came to light in a game in which there was much more: insults, provocations and a final fight. We didn’t report anything, we punished our players, condemned them publicly and committed ourselves to mend it. Gattuso explained at the press conference that Bakayoko and Kessié had apologized because the club had already acted. Acerbi had sent signs of peace and Bakayoko collected them. We made sure that they talked to each other.
“The Lega Sporting Judge didn’t use TV evidence and we got a plea bargain of a fine? But even before the Sporting Judge uttered – with great speed and indignation, Giancarlo Giorgetti, the Undersecretary of State to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, and Gabriele Gravina, the President of the FIGC, commented in a harsh way on the behavior of our players and publicly asked for measures. Even before the competent organizations talked… it’s curious, not to mention serious, isn’t it? But after the racist insults to Kessié and Bakayoko on Wednesday I didn’t see the same responsiveness and the same intransigence. Giorgetti and Gravina, where did they go? Matteo Salvini, the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, also got away with a very generic comment and used the word ‘shame’ only for the game of Milan. And instead we must use ‘shame’ for much more serious incidents.
“It was in the air that something could happen? Obviously, given the precedent of the league match. In fact, in an informal way, the evening before [the game] we contacted all components to share the alert: the FIGC, the Lega, the referee’s summit, public order managers… and we repeated appeals for responsibility to the players. They were silent, we were silent. What’s more, the morning of the match there was the demonstration in Piazzale Loreto. There had to be the maximum attention to undermine the beginning of every form of provocation that could lead to violence.
“Before, during and after the game the Lazio ultras made racist chants without referee Mazzoleni intervening? Absurd. There were at least a thousand reasons to stop that game. With the new rules, he didn’t even have to wait for the second or third choir, the first was enough to recall the teams to the center of the field, to make the announcements and then, in case of more choirs, to permanently suspend the game. Instead, nothing. But we’ve all heard the racist choirs and howls.
“If two announcements were transmitted from the speakers [by the San Siro announcer] then it means that the insults and choruses were audible to all. Yet, Mazzoleni kept on going as if he were the only one not to hear it. If we tried to apply pressure? Our team manager reported the choirs to the fourth man. But pressuring serves up to a certain point. The regulation recognized the discretion of the referee… he is the only one who has to decide.
“The public order manager could’ve also intervened but maybe had the feeling that it’s better to finish the game with as little damage as possible rather than suspend it? It’s a feeling that comes when the rules don’t apply. But we all had been guaranteed they’d intervene in case of racist chants. It wasn’t a surprise situation. Mazzoleni had already experienced in in Inter-Napoli with Koulibaly. We were calm, it wasn’t us who had to act to ask for the suspension of the game, also because we didn’t want it to look like an alibi for the result. Mazzoleni had to decide. However, I think that the referees should be protected and helped more by the institutions so they are not left alone at such moments.
“Bakayoko didn’t ask for intervention while Koulibaly, who was later sent off by Mazzoleni himself, complained about the howls at San Siro? Bakayoko and all the other guys have been commendable. I thanked them because they did everything to promote a peaceful atmosphere on the pitch. The same goes to the Lazio players. The referee had a thousand reasons to suspend that game, he had to do it.
“Ancelotti said that if there are more racist chants his team will stop, and Salvini commented that it is wrong? We have issued a statement and will ask for measures to be taken. The norms for intervening and fighting stadium racism are there. Just apply them. We will be more energetic next time. Meanwhile, we ask for respect. Milan is 120 years of history and values, we cannot suffer what we suffered on Wednesday. We accept defeat, we reject the alibis, but we demand respect and justice.”
Ancora una volta uniti contro il razzismo
Once again, united against racism pic.twitter.com/nkgCuv99QZ
— AC Milan (@acmilan) April 25, 2019
The statement made by the club reads: “Milan wants to reiterate its condemnation of all forms of racism and discrimination following the incidents of last night’s Coppa Italia semi-final second leg game between Milan and Lazio. Recurring chants and monkey noises directed to players Kessié and Bakayoko could be heard coming from the away stand before, during and after the match.
“Throughout their 120 years of history, Milan have always honored the values of Sport, respect and inclusion, which underpin everything we do. The club wants to thank all players from both teams for their professionalism and their fairness, as well as its fans for their passionate support and their responsible behavior despite a climate exacerbated by unacceptable episodes. Milan has felt an obligation to report the serious incidents to the highest sports governing bodies, with the hope that, with everyone’s commitment, measures are implemented to eliminate racism from all stadiums.
“Executive Chairman, Paolo Scaroni, commented: ‘It was disheartening to watch such an important sporting event in our stadium, whilst monkey noises and racist insults were coming from the stands. We must be extremely vigilant. Football is respect. Football should not divide but unite people’.”