Referee: ‘I tried to be a big brother to Maignan’

Referee Fabio Maresca explains how he ‘stuck to the protocol’ for racist abuse from Udinese fans, but also tried to be a ‘big brother’ to Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

Maignan had already alerted Maresca and the fourth official to racist insults at the Bluenergy Stadium and a statement was read out in the arena.

The second time, Maresca suspended play for five minutes while a warning was made that any further incidents and the game would be abandoned.

Maignan was understandably furious and walked off down the tunnel, taking off his gloves with the intention of not continuing, but was convinced to give it one more opportunity.

Fortunately, the Udinese fans behaved after that and Milan were able to complete the 3-2 victory.

“I behaved like a big brother and felt sincere sadness for Maignan, who clearly was hurt emotionally by all this,” Maresca told news agency Ansa.

“I felt terrible hearing those boorish chants.”

While some believed that Maignan had stormed off the pitch, it was Maresca who suspended play.

“The rules are clear, the guidelines from the AIA (Italian Referees’ Association) and the designator Gianluca Rocchi leave no room for manoeuvre. I stuck to the protocol, as is my duty.”

Maresca earned praise for the way he dealt with the situation, trying to reassure Maignan that his concerns were being heard and acted upon.

“The player was very obviously emotionally upset, so I put a hand on his shoulder. He went to the fourth official to tell him the situation.

“The fourth official informed me and so I tried to reassure Maignan, on a human level as well as a referee. I told him whatever happens, talk to me, now I will get the statement read out.

“That is what happened, as is standard, then the abuse was repeated and we suspended the game.”

Maresca confirms Maignan had then walked off and did not seem intent on resuming the match in that atmosphere.

“The referee does have the option of inviting the two teams to leave the pitch, but that did not happen yesterday. In the most serious cases, we could abandon the match, listening to advice from the person who is responsible for public order, but that was not necessary either.

“In those moments, I felt awful for the player, but also for the whole situation. Anyone who loves this sport – players, referees or fans – feels pain seeing it interrupted by such boorish behaviour by a few individuals. It is important to remember these are just a few people and we must not generalise.”

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