Why referee Referee Fabio Maresca chose to suspend AC Milan vs Udinese clash in the face of Maignan racism incident

Mike Maignan was racially abused during Udinese vs AC Milan | Imago

Why referee Referee Fabio Maresca chose to suspend AC Milan vs Udinese clash in the face of Maignan racism incident

Ayoola Kelechi 23:48 - 21.01.2024

AC Milan's match against Udinese became the latest to suffer an incident of racism in Serie A

Referee Fabio Maresca recently shed light on the difficult decision to suspend the AC Milan vs Udinese match in response to racist abuse from Udinese fans directed at Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

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

Maresca’s decision to suspend AC Milan match

When the abuse persisted, Maresca took the decisive step of suspending play for five minutes, issuing a warning that any further incidents would result in the game being abandoned.

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

Despite Maignan's initial intent to walk off, Maresca convinced him to give it one more opportunity, and thankfully, the Udinese fans behaved afterwards, allowing Milan to secure a 3-2 victory.

Sticking to protocol

Maresca acknowledged the clarity of the rules and guidelines from the Italian Referees’ Association, emphasising that he stuck to the protocol.

In dealing with the emotionally upset Maignan, Maresca took a compassionate approach. He reassured the goalkeeper, placing a hand on his shoulder and maintaining open communication.

AC Milan goalkeeper, Mike Maignan || X
AC Milan goalkeeper, Mike Maignan || X

Maignan informed the fourth official of the situation, and Maresca promptly ensured that the statement was read out as per standard procedure.

Maresca confirmed that Maignan had walked off initially, showing reluctance to resume the match in such an atmosphere.

While the referee had the option to invite both teams to leave the pitch or even abandon the match, such extreme measures were not deemed necessary.

Aftermath of Maignan racism incident

Reflecting on the situation, Maresca expressed empathy not only for Maignan but also for the broader impact of such incidents on the sport.

Referee Fabio Maresca | Imago
Referee Fabio Maresca | Imago

He emphasised the importance of not generalising the actions of a few individuals to the entire fanbase, recognising that the interruption caused pain for everyone who loves the sport.

In handling the Maignan racism incident, Maresca demonstrated a delicate balance between enforcing the rules and providing support, showcasing the multifaceted role that referees play in addressing complex situations on the field.

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