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Platini wants play halted during racist chanting

UEFA wants matches to be halted if fans make racist chants, the European governing body's president Michel Platini said yesterday.

Juventus was ordered to play its next home league game behind closed doors on Monday after fans racially abused Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli in Saturday's 1-1 Serie A draw. Juventus has appealed a ruling.

"We will call for play to be stopped for 10 minutes when these things happen and announcements to be made in the stadium," Platini said in Rome. "If it continues the match will be stopped. Courage is needed when there is racism in the stands. That's UEFA's mission."

Racist abuse is not uncommon in Italian soccer and small fines are usually handed out. However, the seriousness of Saturday's incidents prompted the authorities to come down heavily on Juventus.

"It is a difficult moment for the Italian soccer federation. It has taken its responsibility," added the ex-Juventus player.

Italian federation president Giancarlo Abete, who hopes to bring Euro 2016 to the country, told reporters that rules would be changed to allow games to be stopped because of racist chanting.

"The Italian system already gives the authorities the power to suspend the game in the case of banners that incite racial discrimination," he said.

"We'll reinforce this, naturally while staying attentive and finding a balance for the security requirements of the public."

Balotelli scored Inter's opener in the top-of-the-table clash and was subjected to chants of "a black Italian does not exist" from sections of the crowd in Turin. Balotelli, an Italy under-21 international, was born in Palermo but is of Ghanaian descent.

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti said he would have pulled his team off if he had been at Turin's Stadio Olimpico. He has been criticized for his response by Italian media given that Inter was at the centre of a racism storm in 2005 when Messina player Marco Zoro was verbally abused by fans.

Platini was in Rome to hand the Champions League trophy to the city ahead of the final here on May 27. UEFA has stuck with its decision to host the final in Rome despite Italian soccer's problems with racism and hooliganism.

Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno promised that the city will show its best side for next month's final.

"Rome will show the best it has to offer," Alemanno said.

Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona are the four semifinalists vying to play in the May 27 final at the Stadio Olimpico.

Visits of English clubs to Rome in recent years have been marked by outbreaks of fan violence and clashes with police. The incidents at a Roma-United match two years ago were the most notable, with Italian police accused of violent attacks on English supporters inside the stadium. Officials are reportedly considering having English - and possibly Spanish - security stewards inside the stadium for the final.

"I hope to see a great final in a great city," Platini said.


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