Italian football club Lazio has blamed “isolated elements” within its support for racist abuse directed at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko at the Italian Cup semifinal match between the clubs on Wednesday.
Lazio fans could be heard chanting “this banana is for Bakayoko” before and after the match at Milan’s San Siro stadium, according to ANSA news agency and social media videos.
Italian sport paper, Gazzetta dello Sport, also reported that inflatable bananas were spotted in the stadium.
Bakayoko, who is a midfielder, is on loan from Premier League club Chelsea.
The incident happened as eight Lazio supporters are being investigated for holding up a banner reading “Honor to Benito Mussolini” and performing fascist salutes in the northern Italian city, a police spokesperson confirmed to CNN.
The fans are expected to be charged for “fascist manifestation” in the course of an investigation led by the head of the anti-terrorist unit Alberto Nobili.
Thursday is Liberation day in Italy, a public holiday in which Italians celebrate the end of Nazi-fascism.
In a statement after the game, which Lazio won 1-0, the club attempted to distance itself from the racist abuse but also attacked the media for “considering (all) Lazio supporters responsible”
“The S.S. Lazio clearly distances itself from behaviors and manifestations that do not correspond in any way to the values of sport that this club promoted and supported for 119 years,” said the statement. “Lazio also rejects and disputes the simplistic tendency of some media to consider (all) Lazio supporters responsible for the actions carried out by a few isolated elements.”
“The club has always fought for legality and correct conduct.”
Neither Lega Serie A, Italy’s top football division, or the Italian Football Federation have commented on the incidents.
A message was read out on the stadium public address system warning that the game would be suspended if racist chants did not stop, Gazzetta reported. But the chants continued and the referee did not react, according to the paper.
Bakayoko and teammate Franck Kessie had angered Lazio fans at the end of last week’s league match between the clubs when they paraded the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi, who had spoken of what he believed was his team’s superiority before the match, in front of Milan fans.
Italian football has witnessed a number of high profile incidents of racist chanting inside stadiums in recent years.
In December last year, Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly suffered from racist chants whilst playing against Inter Milan. Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said the next time a member of his team was racially abused he’d be happy for the Serie A side to stop playing.
Earlier this month, Juventus striker Moise Kean was subjected to monkey chants during the Turin club’s match with Cagliari.
In October 2017, meanwhile, fans of Lazio posted stickers around Rome’s Stadio Olimpico depicting Holocaust victim Anne Frank wearing the shirt of city rivals Roma alongside anti-Semitic slogans.
At the time, Academic Alberto Testa, who spent time with Lazio and Roma ultras for the book “Football, Fascism and Fandom: The UltraS of Italian Football,”described the incident as a new low in the history of Italian football.”
CNN’s Valentina DiDonato contributed to this report