MILAN: Marcello Nicchi, Italian federation referees’ chief, has complained that too much significance and publicity has been generated over the issue of racist abuse writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Nicchi, 59-year-old president of the Associazione Italiana Arbitri, made his comments after two incidents involving the Pro Patria club of Busto Arsizio.

The first occurred on January 3 when Milan, led by Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, walked off the pitch during a friendly against Pro Patria.

The walkout sparked headlines around the world and the stance of Boateng and his team-mates drew praise from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA head Michel Platini.

Pro Patria were involved again on January 16, this time away to Casale in a youth team game.

Casale’s 18-year-old forward Fabiano Ribeiro retaliated in the 38th minute after complaining he had been called “negro” by one of the Pro Patria players.

The referee, denying having heard any offensive remarks, tried to send off Ribeiro. The Casale team’s coach and a director were also shown the red card for protesting, prompting the entire team to abandon the match.

Casale directors later apologised for the walkoff and said the team had been wrong to take actions into their own hands.

‘Clear regulations’

Nicchi, asked in a TV show about such incidents, said: “The regulations in such circumstances are very clear and the federation has made very clear that the relevant authorities have the authority to suspend games if they deem it necessary.

“The problem sometimes is that incidents like these attract too much attention, minor episodes are blown up out of proportion. The publicity they get then sets a trend.

“Games should not be called off in this way. We have our rules.”

Nicchi refereed in Serie A between 1988 and 1997 and was also on the FIFA list. The high point of his career was an appointment as fourth official in the Euro 96 final in which Germany beat Czech Republic at Wembley.

He was removed from the referees’ list in 1997, partly because of a knee injury and partly because of two notable mistakes in Italian league matches: in one game he sent off a player who had asked the coach for a substitution because of injury and in another he awarded a goal clearly scored with a handball.

Nicchi became president of the AIA in 2009 and was re-elected last November.

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