Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly has said Italy has work to do to fight discrimination after suffering racist abuse from Inter Milan fans at the San Siro on Boxing Day.
Senegal international Koulibaly — who could make his first appearance since the abuse at the same stadium against AC Milan on Saturday — said discrimination remained a problem in Italy.
“There has been great progress made in the world, but the fact that we’re still fighting against discrimination means we’ve gone backwards and that’s a shame,” he said in an interview on Napoli’s social media channels.
“France is more advanced in that respect. I didn’t feel it so much when I first arrived in Italy, perhaps because I was more focused on football.
“However, when my Italian started to improve I started to realise what people were saying. The first time I encountered it was when I heard chants against Neapolitans.
“When you see the players that play for Napoli and the [Italy] national team, it’s a shame that this can happen here.
“At the end of the day, the fight is necessary because people need to realise that a player that plays for Napoli might also play for the national team, so although they can support another team they must support also those players.
“I was born in France and I never had problems like this, either on a football field or in daily life. I grew up around a lot of foreign people — it was a big mix but there were never any problems.”
Koulibaly said he did not mind if he had to be “an icon” in the battle against discrimination but stressed that it was “sad” such a fight was still needed.
“I believe we are all equal — it’s a value I’ve had since I was a child,” he said. “I try to convey that to my family and to everyone I know.
“It’s something I believe in, and I can now show that to everyone. I believe this is a very important fight. We need to teach these values from an early age, in school and throughout life. I don’t need to say to my own son, but it’s always hard to explain what racism is to a child. He’s still too young to understand.
“For them it’s normal that people of all colours are equal. When I look at schoolkids, I think that we should all be like that. We need to realise that we’re all different but equal at the same time.”
Inter were punished for the fans’ abuse by a two-game stadium closure, while the Italian government called a summit to tackle racism and discrimination.