MILAN May 7 Italian football raced another racism controversy on Sunday after Juventus defender Medhi Benatia cut short a post-match television interview, saying he had heard an insult in his earpiece.
The Moroccan defender was being interviewed by state broadcaster Rai on its programme Champagne Football following a 1-1 draw with Torino and was talking to a presenter in the studio when the incident happened.
Benatia, who was commenting on the game, stopped abruptly, said "who said that?" and then said he heard an insult in his earpiece.
The programme presenter then said there were "technical problems" while another panelist said the insult had come from someone in the stadium.
"Rai is sincerely saddened by the deplorable episode of racism involving the Juventus player during the broadcast of Champagne Football," said the broadcaster on Sunday, adding that the insult was not heard by the viewers.
It denied suggestions in the Italian media that the insult had come from one of its own technicians.
"Rai has put in place all the necessary checks to identify the person responsible for the incident and so far the inquiry has ruled out the possibility that the unacceptable phrases came from a company employee," it said.
"Given the seriousness of the incident, the inquiry will continue and Rai in the meantime gives full and total solidarity to the footballer and his club."
Last week, Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch during a game at Cagliari after he was booked for complaining to the referee at racist insults coming from the crowd.
The Ghanaian, who said he had been made to feel like a criminal, was then booked again and then suspended for one match, although the ban was overturned on appeal on Friday. Cagliari were not punished. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Toby Davis)