- (Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)
In what has been an increasing disappointment, a professional soccer match in Italy was stopped for a period of time after some of the raucous fans began chanting racial slurs aimed at some of the players.
The stakes were high for AC Milan, who needed to beat Roma to secure a spot in next year's Champions League, the largest club competition on the continent. Roma's visiting fans wanted to make sure their presence was known.
The home side did not take advantage of a familiar setting and towards the end of the first half, fans witnessed Milan's Muntari sent off with a red card. The Ghanaian received a yellow card for a rash challenge, but during his protest grabbed the referee's arm and was immediately given his marching orders.
The atmosphere after the half changed and an outlet of frustration was found in Milan's Mario Balotelli, who became the focus of racist chants. Play was halted by the referee early in the second half after Roma fans continued in their mean-spirited songs about Balotelli in a professional league that has made more headlines recently for unsightly fan behavior than for the quality of play.
Guidelines set down by the Italian federation and the government's sports security division allowed for play to be stopped so that a warning could be announced over the public address system. Fans were informed of a possible cancelation if the chanting continued. After a few minutes, the ugly chants died down and play resumed.
Milan currently has 69 points from 37 games, while Fiorentina has 67. Both teams are away to bottom of the table opponents next Sunday, with Milan travelling to Siena and Fiorentina to Pescara.
If they finish level on points, Fiorentina will take third place on having the better head-to-head record, with Milan needing to finish ahead of fifth place Udinese, who currently are four points off the mark.