Yesterday’s tense Coppa Italia Inter-Napoli match boiled over when the two teams’ managers got into a sideline argument towards the end of the game, for which Inter coach Roberto Mancini was sent off the pitch. After the match, an upset Mancini decried his counterpart Maurizio Sarri’s behavior, claiming he was called a “faggot.”
Here’s how Mancini described the incident in the postgame press conference, from ESPN FC:
“You have to ask Sarri what happened as he is a racist,’’ Mancini said. “Men like him shouldn’t be in the world of football. He is 60 years old and must be ashamed.
“I got up to ask about the five minutes of injury time and he yelled ‘f——-.’ I would be happy to be one if he is what’s considered a man.
“The fourth official heard everything, but didn’t say a word, and I was sent off. This incident overshadows the rest of the match and is an embarrassment.”
There’s a bit of a discrepency with the word “razzista,” which is translated above as “racist,” which is what the word literally means. However, as Gab Marcotti has pointed out, “razzista” is a broader term in Italy that is at times used as a synonym for bigot.
When confronted about the argument, Sarri didn’t exactly deny the facts of Mancini’s account, though he did try to minimize the importance of his words:
“It was the kind of argument that people have on the touchline or on the pitch. I apologised to him in the locker room, but I expected him to apologise to me too. I think what happened on the pitch should stay on the pitch,’’ the Napoli manager said.
“I can’t remember [my exact words], it’s possible [I used that language]. I was fired up and angry, so I’m not sure what I said.
“Am I homophobic? That seems over the top. I was just irritable. I said something out of rage at the Dries Mertens red card and I have nothing against Mancini. We are men of sport, these things happen, and it only lasted 10 seconds.’’
The insult of Mancini’s that Sarri felt entitled to an apology for was “vecchio cazzone,” which roughly translates to “old fuck.”
In a later interview, Sarri doubled down on his view that what he said was no big deal:
“I think the whole thing is a being exaggerated, they were words of anger, not homophobic comments,’’ he continued. “Mertens had been sent off and I yelled out in frustration and without the intent of offending. My actions were neither sexist nor racist, simply the product of anger. But I accept that another could think differently.
“Beyond apologising, there’s not much more I can do. I will try to call him [Mancini] tomorrow.
“It is true that certain words should not be used, but then again I’ve heard much worse. I have no stance on the issue of homosexuality. It was just a word I blurted out in the heat of the moment.’’
While Sarri did apologize for his behavior immediately after the event and has done so publicly, he’s since gone on to use the old “But I’ve had gay friends, I can’t be a homophobe” excuse.
Mancini claimed that the fourth official on the sideline heard all of this and responded to the tiff by throwing out Mancini. In his postgame notes, the ref made no mention of the specific language the two men used. Mancini went on to say, “In England, someone like him wouldn’t even be allowed on a training pitch.” Both Sarri’s club and Italian soccer officials have yet to comment on the incident, though it will be fascinating to see how Italy, of all places, deals with this.
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