Bonucci gets flak for faulting Kean in racial row

TURIN • Teammates are supposed to have each other's backs, but Leonardo Bonucci evidently thinks otherwise.

Rising starlet Moise Kean, who notched his first two goals for Italy during the international break as the Azzurri opened their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with two straight victories, fired home his fourth league goal this season to seal Juventus' 2-0 win at Cagliari on Tuesday.

While the 19-year-old and teammates Blaise Matuidi and Alex Sandro had been targeted by monkey chants throughout the game, the noises increased in intensity after the forward celebrated his goal by standing in front of the home fans with outstretched arms.

Kean, who was born in Vercelli to Ivorian parents, later stood by his actions, posting on his Instagram page that it was "the best way to respond to racism".

But Bonucci, who opened the scoring, told Sky Italia that as he had incited the crowd, "the blame is 50-50".

The Italy defender said: "Kean knows that when he scores a goal, he has to focus on celebrating with his teammates.

"He knows he could've done something differently, too. Moise shouldn't have done that and the Curva (Cagliari fans) should not have reacted that way.

"We are professionals, we have to set the example and not provoke anyone."

Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini also described criticism of his team's supporters as "self-righteousness", while labelling Matuidi as a "drama queen".

Bonucci's comments, however, drew swift condemnation on social media and from fellow footballers including Memphis Depay and Christian Benteke.

Raheem Sterling, who has also been the subject of racist abuse while playing for both Manchester City and England, posted in response on his Instagram page that "all you can do now is laugh".

Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic rejected Bonucci's insinuations, telling Football-Italia that taunts have "no place in football", while Matuidi also tweeted his support, using the hashtag #NoToRacism.

The abuse came on the same day that Aleksander Ceferin, president of European football governing body Uefa, said that he was "ashamed" by the spate of incidents - most recently when England played in Montenegro last week. He urged officials to "not to be afraid to act" to stop a match if things get out of order.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'Bonucci gets flak for faulting Kean in racial row'. Print Edition | Subscribe