Raheem Sterling branded criticism of Moise Kean laughable while the Italian Football Federation issued an apology after the teenage Juventus striker was racially abused by fans.
After scoring Juve’s second goal in the 2-0 win at Cagliari, Kean stood next to the post and spread his arms in defiant response to monkey chants coming from the stands.
Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci later claimed his team-mate should take “50-50” of the blame for the abuse while manager Massimiliano Allegri was also critical of the 19-year-old’s celebration.
Manchester City forward Sterling, who also pointedly celebrated a goal in front of opposition fans after he was racially abused during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro last month, took to Instagram to counter Bonucci’s argument.
“The blame is 50-50 @bonuccileo19,” he posted alongside a number of laughing and applause emojis.
“All you can do now is laugh.”
Also writing on Instagram, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba said: “I support every fight against racism, we’re all equal.”
Pogba added in Italian: “Good Italians wake up, you can’t let a small racist group speak for you. #equalgame #respect.”
Former Juventus defender Patrice Evra also voiced his support for Kean on Twitter with a post which condemned the abuse.
Evra, on his account @Evra, wrote: “This is not acceptable in football or anywhere in the world. Well done to @moisekean for standing up to them and showing them who is boss. The world would be a better place if we all shared more love no matter what.”
Kean posted a message on Instagram with a photo of his celebration and a caption which read: “The best way to respond to racism #notoracism.”
The incident came in the middle of UEFA’s two-day ‘equal game’ conference to tackle discrimination in the game and panellist Yaya Toure, the former Manchester City midfielder, called on the Italian football authorities to act.
He said: “To be honest that was so hard to take. I was shocked when I saw that happen and then the manager saying Kean shouldn’t have done that. I want to see what the Italian FA is going to do about
it. I want to see a response.
“I’ve been in football for a long time and I didn’t see progress. Yesterday look what happened? And players saying ‘you shouldn’t have done that’. It’s a disgrace.”
Cristina Blasetti from the Italian Football Federation, who was in the conference audience at Wembley Stadium, stood up and apologised.
She said: “We are very sorry for what happened last night. We are doing our best to tackle this issue.”
Former Wigan striker Jason Roberts, now CONCACAF director of development, applauded the players who are standing up to racism but questioned why it should fall to them to do so.
Roberts told the conference: “I think it’s deeply troubling when you see a young player having to endure what was thrown at him, and that we have to watch somebody at 19 years old put in a position of leadership like that.
“What was stark was the reaction of some opposition players and some of his own players to move him away from the situation as if he had done something wrong. I think he showed remarkable maturity to not react more. Who else in the workplace would have to endure what that poor young man had to go through?
“We are seeing the rise of it in society and again in football. This is about representation, about the toughest of sanctions ensuring players have the confidence in the governing bodies and decision-makers that the sanctions match the crime.
“I’m not sure we have that at the moment and that’s why we have a climate where managers, players, both black and white, are saying that they will walk off the pitch.
“If that happens it leaves us in a very difficult position. It means we are not doing enough and that the players are being asked to lead on this issue again.”
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out condemned the Italian federation as well as the reactions of Allegri and Bonucci, saying: “This is the third year in a row that black players have been racially abused at Cagliari…and yet the Italian FA allows it to continue.
“To compound the abuse further, Kean – the victim – is criticised for his reaction by the Cagliari president, as well as his own captain Leonardo Bonucci and manager Massimiliano Allegri.
“Both should take a lesson from (Juventus team-mate Blaise) Matuidi, who actually showed his support for a young man forced to endure monkey chanting from supporters.”