For the odd soccer fans out there who were looking forward to the spectacle of an eerily quiet match on May 3 between Italian soccer clubs Juventus and Lecce, prepare for possible disappointment. The AP reports that the Italian Olympic Committee has put a hold on a ruling that would have required Juventus to play its next Serie A home match in front of a crowd of empty seats. The original ruling against Juventus was handed down by an Italian sports judge last week as punishment for racist insults directed (presumably by Juventus fans) at Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who is an Italian of Ghanaian descent.
However, Juventus isn't off the hook just yet, as this ruling appears to be just a temporary reprieve. The Committee reportedly indicated it would meet on May 14 to rule in the matter. Juventus is claiming that "Balotelli and other players were booed at many other matches and the Turin-based club was being singled out for punishment." So, apparently they don't want to be discriminated against ... But, for what it's worth, Inter Milan's coach Jose Mourinho didn't think the insults at issue were racist, either. In fact, he appears to agree with the Juventus side as to the penalty, saying:
"'If I can say something in defense of Juve, Saturday was not the first time. It's happened in many stadiums and even at our own ground,' Mourinho said, according to the ANSA news agency. 'I don't know what the difference is between 3,000 or 4,000 fans in Turin or 500 visiting fans at the San Siro, but it's not the first time.'
'Something has to be done,' Mourinho added. 'But I definitely don't like the idea of playing a game behind closed doors, because half the reasons for playing remain outside also, with the fans.'"